You might think that growing herbal teas is a specialist area but nothing could be further from the truth.With just a few minutes preparation you can be growing your own varieties and can enjoy the superior taste of fresh tasting drinks through a good portion of the year.
Chamomile: An annual, grow from seed, which likes a light soil. The daisy-like flowers are picked and used fresh with the rounded yellow centres providing the taste.
Mint: Each of the mint varieties give their own unique taste, although peppermint is my favourite. I don’t actually know anyone who has had to sow mint as it seems to spring up as an invasive weed in many gardens – it can be identified by rubbing the leaves in your fingers which reveals its wonderful aroma. If you do plant it then make sure you put it in a pot to stop it spreading, although it will need to be kept well watered in hot weather. Peppermint is good for all kinds of digestive complaints but is far too nice to be kept as a remedy for ailments!
Fennel: Fennel has a bright, licorice flavor that warms and soothes you. In any form, fennel is supposed to be good for digestion. You can use crushed seeds or leaves, to make tea. You’ll need about a teaspoon of seeds or several fronds per cup. This tea is as aromatic as it is flavorful.
Lemon Balm: Closely related to mint this adds a lemony twist to any blend. Again, it can be quite an invasive plant and the leaves should be picked fresh for the best flavor. Lemon Verbena (which is unrelated to lemon balm) can also be used although it will not be as strong. As well as the beneficial effects for stomach complaints listed above for mint, lemon balm is also slightly stimulating which can make it good to drink before working or studying.
Rosemary: A hardy perennial that I always have in my kitchen garden. It makes invigorating teas, usually mixed with other herbs. The fresh leaves are used, avoiding the woody stems. Rosemary will grow well in most positions and can be started by simply taking a cutting from an existing plant. I usually cut it back annually to keep it from sprawling out of shape.
Sage: Sage has a pleasant grassy-herbal flavor that offers many health benefits. The tea is a great stress reliever. You can use either fresh or dried leaves (two teaspoons fresh or a teaspoon dried per cup.)For a fruity twist, try making tea with pineapple sage (Salvia elegan).
For a more fruity taste try rosehips (the seed cases that form on rose bushes), elder-flowers picked from the tree and combined with lemon or jasmine grown up a trellis. I’ve not grown any of these myself but all are recommended for home use.
Many herbs can traditionally be used for health benefits. You can add nettle which is a good source of iron and is used as a blood detoxifier and marigold petals, whose slightly bitter taste act as a natural anti-histamine against conditions such as hayfever. Dandelion gives a number of useful vitamins and minerals and echinacea along with yarrow are traditional remedies for colds and fevers.