One Leaf or Two?

One of the easiest and most pleasant ways to start off your day is with a cup of herb tea. Drinking a cup each morning gives you a chance to take a few minutes for yourself–before the hustle of the day begins. Growing herbs for that perfect cup is a cinch, too. Herb leaves can be used fresh or dried and blended in advance.

Using herbs for tea is so easy in fact, you can literally grab a stem or two from the garden on the way to work. By boiling a cup of water (in the microwave), pouring it over the herb leaves and allowing it steep for a few minutes, you can have a cup of tea ready to enjoy quickly. (Of course, you should rinse the herbs before using.) Strain. Sweeten to taste and you have a cup of home-grown joy.

Drying herbs for tea is also a simple process. Most herbs can be dried by hanging bundles of stems upside-down in a dark, well-ventilated area for several days. Once dry, pull the leaves off of the stems and store them in an airtight container away from direct light and heat. (I have found that drying herbs in the attic works well and dries the herbs much faster.) The dried leaves can then be placed in a tea strainer (or in half of a paper coffee filter tied with unflavored dental floss) with the boiling water being poured over them. (Herbs can also be dried in the microwave, oven, or dehydrator but the process can be tricky. If over-dried, all of the essential oils, vitamins, minerals and great taste will be lost.)

The flavor and desired healing effects of the cup of tea can be controlled by varying the herbs used. Herbal teas have been used for centuries to heal the body as well as the spirit. What other plant can do so much? Additional information about the healing properties of herbal teas can be found on-line. My favorite source of information is a book called Healthy Teas, written by Tammy Safi.

The following is a list of several basic herbs that can be easily grown for tea by the beginning gardener.

* All Mints- Black Peppermint and Orange Mint are especially nice. Both are refreshing and stimulating.

* Lemon Balm or Lemon Verbena- Both have a wonderful citrus taste that is easily blended with other herbs.

* Stevia- A natural way to sweeten tea without affecting glucose levels in the body.

* Chamomile- Relaxing and great for the end of the day especially when combined with Lemon Balm.

Be adventurous!  Don’t limit your herbal tea experience to the above list or even to those you can grow yourself. The amount of herbal teas available at the grocery store now-a-days is staggering. The important thing is to pick one and to take a few minutes each day to begin exploring one of Life’s Simple Pleasures. You will be glad you did.

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