In Maine, the ground is covered with a few inches of icy, crusted snow, so that means it's time to start dreaming of spring and gardening. As I travel on my own zero waste, plastic free journey I find taking small steps works best. Once I "master" one goal I know I am ready to move to a new one. Making my own herb tea has been one of my goals.
I drink a lot of herbal tea and last month I started making my own tea with herbs I grew last summer. It's taken me awhile to get to this step and I'm not exactly sure why- but I suspect convenience. That's the main reason there is so much plastic in our modern lives- we are busy and anything to save time is attractive. And my mornings are busy and popping a tea bag into my tea container saves me about maybe 3-5 seconds. Sometimes it's not really the actual time saved, it's the idea of convenience.
I knew I wanted to make tea last summer so I planted herbs found in my daily teabags- chamomile and lavender being my two favorites. But there are so many easy to grow herbs that are wonderful additions to your tea blend. All the mints, Lemon Balm, Pineapple Sage, Lemon Verbena, and the petals and hips of roses.
I planted Lavender plants a few years ago and even here in Maine it is a hardy perennial- I just cover the plants after the Xmas holidays with evergreen boughs from left over Xmas trees. This helps protect them from the extreme changes in weather especially if we don't have a lot of snow. Lavender is easy to harvest, simply cut the flowers right before full bloom. I like to leave a few inches of stem so I can tie into bunches and hang upside down. Cutting lavender is a lovely, relaxing chore.
Chamomile I start by seed right in the garden. It can be a bit fussy to germinate especially if it's dry because it likes a bit of moisture. Last summer I seeded chamomile at least three times and finally in late summer it took off. The great thing is once planted it easily reseeds- so this summer I should have a great harvest with very little effort. Chamomile is slower to harvest than Lavender, I tend to pinch the flower buds sitting on a low stool. It's also messy to dry as it creates a fine yellow dust. I use flat wicker baskets and next summer I'm going to remember to place a cloth underneath to save on clean up time.
Any herb that has a stem I cut and bunch with thread and hang upside down to dry. I also invested in a hanging drier which fits in a doorway. I love my drying rack as I can dry lots of herbs in very little space. To preserve your herbs store in an airtight jar or container.
During the growing season you can use herbs fresh to make tea and later in the year you'll have lots of fun making blends. I use a teapot with a mesh insert. I'm saving money, people love the fresh smell of my tea and it's been an easy way for me to reduce my trash and save money.