Friday, March 16, 2018

This year, try something just for fun.

If you're kind of new to herbs, hopefully you've spent time over the winter reading about herbs, weeds, roots, berries, and flowers that can be used in herbal tea. If you're not a newbie, you're chaffing at the bit to get out there and touch/smell/taste some fresh botanical treasure.
I've written and spoken several times about an experiment from one of my first years of seriously involving myself with plants.  That spring, summer and fall, I gathered small sprigs and handfuls of everything that crossed my path that could be used as infusions.  You may have many things that are completely different from what I gathered.

First they were thrown into a large market type basket (except roots or berries which should dry separately), and gently tossed every day when I walked past.  After a week, I switched to a second basket while the first basket finished drying.  Once dry, they went into a gallon jar.

On it went all during the warm months.  Young nettles, and chamomile dried along side the blossoms of various fruits and leaves from raspberry and strawberry.  Mints and borage flowers, elderblossoms and violet flowers and leaves eventually turned into calendula, echinacea leaves and flowers, basil and thyme.  Rose petals, sage leaves, lavender, St John's wort, raspberries, and plantain in June.
Mimosa, rosehips, hibiscus, marshmallow, beebalm, and motherwort will cross your path on hikes.  Lemongrass and ginger may be native to you, here they come from the grocer - and go into the jar.  Wild oats, linden blossoms, and catnip may wind up in there, too.  Honeysuckle?  Sure!
Visiting friends' gardens had me looking for things that would go into those baskets.  Juniper berries, a ginseng leaf, some hyssop or catmint tucked gently into a pocket for the ride home.  Passionflower leaves, tendrils and petals from a wild vine, and a hops strobile or two, some pine needles find their way into the basket.  The zests of lemon and orange is diced and dried, and some is added to the jar.  Someone grows stevia, and just a few leaves will sweeten the whole jar.
Fall arrives and elderberries are dried for the tea.  Lemon balm and verbena are welcome additions.  The list goes on and on.  In the end, I added a sprinkle of fennel seeds, some cinnamon chips, and a little licorice root.  Depending on where you live, you may find other things.

Fruits like blueberries, currants, or raspberries are delicious, but after they are dried, cut them into smallish pieces.
Finally, shake it all together. 
Over the winter, use that jar up.  No two cups/brews out of the jar will be the same.
You will have learned a lot about blending herb teas, because 99% of those cups of tea will be tasty.  1% will be either boring or bitter.  Either way, they are all an experience.  By this time next year, you will either be eager to start over, or you will have learned that there were some things that you particularly liked (or disliked), and be looking forward to getting more of that.  You will also know that you can blend luscious teas with no fear.
Get ready now, and start thinking about this so you're prepared.  Keep a basket in the car.  It's one of my favorite things to do.
Of course if this is not feasible for you and you're a tea drinker, visit our Virtual Tea Shop

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