Submitted by Faye Mahaffey
OSUE Brown County Master Gardener Volunteer
One of my childhood friends had a very special grandmother that we lovingly called “Grandma T.” She would have a special tea party for my friend’s birthday each year and we each took home a teacup and saucer as a party favor. She provided a variety of white gloves, hats, jewelry, dresses and shoes for us to complete the tea party experience. We felt so special as we sipped hot tea and enjoyed delicious tea sandwiches!
Grandma T’s teacups and saucers are displayed on a shelf in my home and I now drink tea from a mug, but I still remember how much fun we had at those tea parties. As the snow was flying this weekend, I came across a great article about growing your own tea garden. Herbs for tea are easy to grow, look stunning in flower or garden beds and smell amazing. According to blogger, Getty Stewart, whether you have a single pot in a sunny window, a balcony or patio planter, or a large garden, she recommends trying to grow herbs for tea.
Her nine favorite herbs for tea include:
- Giant Hyssop(Agastache foeniculum) Easy to grow, attractive to pollinators and a native North American prairie species. It is quite drought tolerant and will come back year after year despite long cold winters.
- German Chamomile(Matricaria recutita) Chamomile is a must have for any tea garden. Dainty daisy-like flowers grow on lacy, feathery leaves. The flavor is quite unique.
- Mint-Peppermint, Spearmint, Chocolate Mint, Apple, Orange, Strawberry or Grapefruit Mint, and Mojito Mint. Caution: Mint makes delicious tea but can be invasive if not contained in the garden! I grow my mints in large pots on the deck.
- Lemon Grass(Cymbopogon) Use Lemon Grass as a tall grassy centerpiece in large planters. The long grassy blades are perfect for tea.
- Lemon Balm(Melissa officinalis) This aggressive member of the mint family has been banished to a large container on my deck. It nearly consumed my herb bed by the porch! It has a refreshing lemony scent and flavor and is good for hot or cold tea
- Lemon Verbena(Aloysia citrodora) This perennial tropical shrub won’t survive anything cooler than Zone 8, so it may be a challenge to find locally. It grows quickly in hot summers, but you will need to keep it indoors over the winter.
- Borage(Borago officianalis) With its stunning edible flowers and ability to attract pollinators, borage is a must in any garden! The flowers and leaves taste remarkably like cucumbers.
- Lemon Thyme(Thymus citriodorus) Many savory herbs like Rosemary, Sage and Parsley make excellent tea. Lemon Thyme has a light lemony flavor
- Stevia(Stevia Rebaudiana) Stevia makes a fantastic sweetener for any tea. Stevia is super sweet and just a tiny bit will sweeten an entire tea pot.
Stewart also provides a word of caution when consuming herbal teas. All plants have properties in them that may cause allergies or undesirable side effects if taken in large doses. Be sure to do your research! There are great resources available to learn more about harvesting herbs and brewing herbal teas.
I love my coffee in the morning, but a mug of tea in the evening hits the spot! I am headed to the kitchen to brew up some ginger tea right now and browse through another seed catalog.