Many people start their day with a coffee. Are you buying yours at a local coffee shop or at Starbucks? When I make coffee at home, I use an Italian stove top coffee maker, what do you prefer? A French press?
I am not trying to convince you to stop drinking coffee. After all, it is still a great beverage. This article is just a quick report of how I grow herbs in my garden and have fresh tea for most of the year. If you were to follow my routine, you get up in the morning, go outside to cut the herbs from your balcony or garden and in the meantime water is already beginning to boil in your kettle. By the time you return inside, you had some fresh air and after a quick rinse your herbs are ready to steep. While they steep, you can prepare the rest of your breakfast and are all set for a great beginning to your day. Both coffee and fresh herbal tea have an intense smell. The tea aroma will fill your house with a pleasant non-toxic and non-artificial fragrance.
You can get yourself refills from your big pot of tea throughout the day; stay hydrated and refresh yourself. With fresh herbs, it doesn’t really pan out to just make one cup. Of course it is possible, but I, for one, could never just drink a single cup. Plus, it is a joy experiencing both hot, warm and cold tea.
I used to have a strong espresso coffee in the morning, however, eventually I did not feel energized by it. The effect on me was the opposite and after working for an hour, I felt worse than before drinking the coffee. How lucky for me that I planted a good variety of herbs last summer and added to the assortment this season. Once you have established an herb in your garden and it is perennial in your climate, it will come back every year. And before the first frost, you can either freeze, hang dry, or dehydrate your remaining herbs to provide yourself with a great supply of homegrown tea for the late fall, winter and early spring seasons.
When I show visitors my mint patch, the fellow gardeners will say: “Oh mint, you have to be careful, it will TAKE OVER!” And I reply: “Yes, I hope it does.” This year I have given more thought to how I trim the mint throughout the harvest season and I cut down the entire patch a minimum of 3 times and it is still producing some new leaves right now in the middle of September. This mint tea is nothing like store bought mint tea.
My relationship and love for mint tea started at a young age. When I was still a small boy, I became familiar with peppermint tea by a Moroccan friend during my family’s annual vacation on the island of Corsica. When I passed by his terrace he’d say: “Ca va? - tee trinken?” Which is a mix between French and German and means: “How are you, drink some tea?” His mint tea was very flavorful, strong and sweet. They sure love to put a brick of sugar in their tea in Morocco.
After we came home from vacation I demanded that my mom plant mint in our garden and soon after it TOOK OVER. In 2014, my love of mint tea only intensified after experiencing daily Moroccan mint tea breaks during my wife and my honeymoon in Morocco. Years later, when we bought our first home, it already had an established peppermint patch in the backyard and I believe this was fate. The only difference between then and now is that I do not use a brick of sugar in my daily batch. Fast forward to present day: I added many other herbs to compliment our cooking and of course for some nice teas. Here is a list of some of the herbs that I have planted:
Lemongrass: This herb enjoys being trimmed and it will grow back thicker. This is such a great kitchen and tea herb. I will slice the thicker part of the stem into small pieces to allow more water to reach its surface.
Lemon Verbena: A great standalone herb for an intense lemony beverage that you will enjoy hot and cold. I do not remove the leaves after brewing and the flavor changes over the day.
Stevia: Very potent and easy to grow. A couple leaves will easily sweeten 50 ounces of herbal tea.
Lemon Balm: My wife thinks its lemony taste reminds her too much of bug repellent. I get what she means, it is a different kind of lemon taste. Maybe it’s that turpentiney hint. However, I think a few leaves add an extra layer of freshness.
Sage: I have planted tricolor, golden and pineapple sage. A distinct flavor that also pairs nicely with different meats. A pure sage tea is more of a natural remedy than a breakfast beverage, but in an herbal blend a few leaves will add a nice deep layer. Rosemary: While most people only associate this herb with Italian cuisine, I also use it to make teas. Either as an add-on or as the main ingredient with some lemon notes.
Thyme: This herb, which I don’t use as often, makes for an intense tea that is also a great cough remedy.
It is currently the wrong season to plant your herbs, because fall is approaching quickly now and the days are already significantly shorter. They are best transplanted in spring and with a little of your garden love they can take off by themselves. You do not need a green thumb, Promise! Gardening is much more about dirty fingernails than green thumbs. Don’t over-complicate it. Don’t over think. Just do it.
Find a sunny spot in your garden and start planting. You could even turn some of your lawn into a garden patch by covering it with a tarp from March until May. The grass will be gone and you end up with an area that would appreciate your herb garden. Hang pots from your balcony. Or put some 3-5 gal pots on your stairs. There is pretty much a planter box for every budget out there. After you transplant them and your herbs had some time to adjust, you can try to cut them back to encourage and provoke growth. Generally, it is better to cut the stem instead of just harvesting its leaves. This way many herbs will start to branch out and you can literally quadruple your yield.
Now let me go refill my cup and please share your favorite fresh herbal tea recipes with me.