GROW YOUR OWN TEA

I have been collecting herbs for drying this week, somewhat late, but just in time. We are big drinkers here of home grown herb teas and our favourites are peppermint and lemon verbena.

Peppermint is a perennial plant but as it dies down in the winter you can’t use it then. So I find picking off individual leaves, drying them and storage in a jam jar keeps us going for the year. Fresh or dried it is just a case of adding hot water to one or two leaves and I do like sugar added (for the Middle Eastern version). A pot of peppermint is easy to grow anywhere – beware, as it will spread widely in the ground.

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Lemon verbena and peppermint leaves drying

In the summer I enjoy fresh lemon balm tea. It dies down in the winter like mints but I find that when dried it doesn’t taste very nice. In my experience lemon verbena is a much better choice.

Lemon verbena is a small shrub which is susceptible to frosts, so certainly here I grow it in a pot and it has to be overwintered in a heated greenhouse, or a conservatory or porch would do. In the summer I have a lemon verbena plant outside and two leaves in a mug of hot water is the most delicious drink.

I have also been gathering parsley and dill for the freezer, as I can never have too much of these for cooking. We love vegetable stews with lots of dill in them – youngest child went to stay in Russia one winter and there she said everything was flavoured with dill – so we call it ‘Russian stew’. Both these herbs I wash and just stuff them into freezer bags. Once frozen they will crumble up nicely, and I even use the parsley stalks in soup.

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Parsley and dill ready to freeze

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