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    Herbal Tea

    How to Grow and Dry Herbs for Tea

    Benjamin Kilbride, Editorial Assistant at The Old Farmer’s Almanac

    Learn how to grow and dry a few herbs for your own special blend of tea!

    Why Make Homemade Tea?

    Tea is just like any other food product—you want to know that it contains the best ingredients. The best way to ensure that the tea you drink doesn’t have any added flavors, sweeteners, or preservatives is to grow your own herbs. Also, growing and drying herbs for tea is easier than you might think!

    Three Easy Herbs to Grow Indoors

    Peppermint

    Plant peppermint in a 6- to 8-inch-wide pot containing well-draining potting mix. Place the plant near a window that receives indirect light, in a room with daytime temperatures of 65° to 70°F and nighttime temperatures of 55° to 60°F. Peppermint prefers to be kept moist—water regularly, whenever the upper soil is dry to the touch.

    Harvest tips: Take only 1/10 of the plant at one time, giving it 2 to 3 weeks to recover between harvests. Try to harvest after peppermint has bloomed—unlike most plants, peppermint leaves are sweeter after the plant has flowered.

    Chamomile

    Plant chamomile in a 12-inch-wide pot containing well-draining potting mix. Place the plant near a south-facing window that receives moderate light. In the winter, chamomile requires only about 4 hours of sunlight a day. Keep chamomile in a room with daytime temperatures of 60° to 70°F and nighttime temperatures of 55° to 60°F. Water once a week to keep the soil moderately moist.

    Harvest tip: When the flowers are close to opening, gently snip their heads from the stalk. Harvest only the flower buds—leave the foliage.    

    Lemon Verbena

    Plant lemon verbena in a 12-inch-wide pot containing well-draining potting mix. Place the plant near a window that receives bright, direct sunlight all day long. Keep lemon verbena in a room with daytime temperatures of 70° to 75°F and nighttime temperatures of 65° to 70°F. Water regularly, but only when the top 2 to 3 inches of soil are dry.

    Harvest tip: Lemon verbena should be pruned regularly to maintain a healthy, bushy shape—gather and save all of the trimmings.

    Three Ways to Dry Herbs

    Air-Drying

    Tie the stems in small bundles using twist ties, string, or rubber bands. Make an indoor clothesline out of a length of string and two thumbtacks and set it up in a warm, dry room (avoid rooms with a lot of moisture, such as the kitchen or a bathroom). Hang the bundles of herbs from the string clothesline. The herbs can take from 2 to 3 days to 2 weeks to dry completely.

    Food Dehydrator Drying

    Pull the leaves or buds from stems and spread them on the different trays of the food dehydrator. Make sure that the leaves have plenty of space so that they dry from each side evenly. Turn on the dehydrator, checking every few hours on the herbs’ progress. The entire process can take a couple of hours to half of a day, depending on how much herb material is placed in the dehydrator. 

    Refrigerator Drying

    The least labor-intensive of the three, dehydrating in the refrigerator requires only enough space in the fridge to spread out your herbs. Spread herbs over a few plates or a cookie sheet on an open, empty rack in the fridge. Leave them for 2 to 3 days, or until the herbs are dry. 

    How to Store Dried Herbs

    Store dried herbs in airtight containers (preferably made of glass, such as mason jars) out of direct light and away from heat sources. Label containers with the contents, the date, and the method of drying. Simple notes such as these can help you to remember how to repeat the steps to make your best batches of herbs again.

    Three Simple Tea Recipes

    In a pot, bring 4 cups of water to a rolling boil. Turn off heat and add dried leaves or flowers (see amount for each tea below) to the water. Cover and let steep for about 5 minutes. Pour the liquid through a tea strainer into a mug or thermos. Enjoy!

    For peppermint tea . . .

    1/2 cup of dry peppermint leaves

    For chamomile tea . . .

    2 tablespoons of dry chamomile flowers

    For lemon verbena tea . . .

    2 tablespoons of dry lemon verbena leaves

    Yield: Makes 4 cups (about 2 servings).

     

     

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