Seven Herbal Teas from Your Yard

The tea industry has declared June “National Iced Tea Month.” If you are trying to live more lightly on this earth and not spend massive amounts of carbon dioxide emitting fossil fuels importing tea made from the Asian tea plant (Camelia sinensis), consider these tasty caffine-free “herbal” teas you can grow in your own yard and enjoy anytime. Tea does not need to come from Asia!

January was National Hot Tea Month, and I wrote about four other teas you can grow – here.

Prepare Iced Tea

All the herbs mentioned here are prepared as infusions, pouring boiling water over the dried material and allowing them to steep, just like you do with store bought tea bags. Avoid decoctions, where the plants are placed in boiling water and cooked over heat. “Sun tea” that sits out for longer than a half hour at mid-day is a form of decoction, and such preparation is to be avoided with these herbs! And for your best health, avoid sun tea made from Asian teas that sit in the sun too long.

herbal-tea-soule-grow
This is a blend of mint, sage, and fennel. Tried it because a friend was out in the garden with me and we decided it might taste good. She liked it. I didn’t.

Harvest Your Own Tea

In general, the herbs in this article are dried before using. Use roughly one tablespoon of dried material per cup of water. Drying helps get rid of some of the sharper flavors, and helps concentrate other flavors. Even rose petals make a tastier tea if dried first.

To dry herbs, I refer you to the site I run on using the products of our region – Savor the Southwest.net. We also have YouTube videos – like “Dried Rose Petals.”

Sign Up For My Newsletter

occasional news you can use

I respect your privacy and won't share the list. Newsletters sent from SouthwestGardenGuide@hotmail.com.

Seven Iced Tea Plants

Rose

Over on Savor the Southwest, I posted Seven Plants to Forage for Iced Tea. Tops on that list (and in flavor – IMHO) are rose petals. In that post I suggest foraging the wild roses – but you can use the garden grown ones as well.  Rose petal tea is flavorful and soothing – and subtle. To taste buds battered by most carbonated beverages available in stores and restaurants, it is an elusive taste. It may take time for you to re-tune your palate. You can also use your rose petals to make some other tasty beverages, like Rose Sangria.

gardening-with-soule-tea-from-your-yard

Basil

Use the flower buds from your basil. This makes sense because it is a good idea to pinch the buds off your basil plants to encourage more basil leaves. The buds are naturally mildly sweet because the plant is sending sugars up there for nectar.

gardening-with-soule-tea-from-your-yard
If you want more basil leaves, you need to pinch off the flowers. Make them into tea!

Lavender

Lavender tea is luscious and can be made from the flowers (sweeter) or the leaves (more tangy). Not growing lavender? You can find this herb at most stores that offer dried herbs in bulk.

gardening-with-soule-tea-from-your-yard
Desert lavender is fragrant and tasty. Photo courtesy S Matson.

Desert Lavender

Not big on growing non-native plants? In Low & Middle Desert areas look no farther that the silvery shrub commonly called desert lavender (Condea emoryi, formerly Hyptis emoryi). The flowers offer an intense lavender fragrance and taste, and the leaves do just as well. For tea, the earthy perfume aroma and flavor mixes well with other florals like rose petals or mint leaves.

gardening-with-soule-tea-from-your-yard
Poliomintha longiflora also makes a very tasty tea. Leaves and flowers. Photo courtesy W. Anderson.

Poliomintha

Rosemary mint is just one of the many common names for Poliomintha incana, a native to the Southwest. It is in the mint family.  This low growing shrub-like perennial has rich green leaves and looks lovely in a landscape (prettier than rosemary IMHO). Both leaves and flowers offer a tea that is a tangy blend of rosemary and mint – very refreshing, and palate cleansing on a hot dusty day.

gardening-with-soule-tea-from-your-yard
Big and bushy – lemon grass can’t take freezing so folks in upper elevations will need to grow it in pots and move it to protected areas in winter.

Lemon Grass

While lemon grass (Cymbopogon species) is not native to the desert, it makes a good addition to your mosquito repelling garden (to be discussed here soon). Lemon grass is popular in many tea blends from the store, and you can add it to your home blends.

Desert Broom

gardening-with-soule-tea-from-your-yard
Desert broom – use the leaves – or the flowers.

A vigorous plant often considered a weed, desert broom is frequently the first plant to sprout on a cleared stretch of desert, like over the septic tank. You can make a nice green tea from the branches – just maybe don’t use the ones that grew over the septic tank due to potential concentration of heavy metals.

As I discuss in “Father Kino’s Herbs: Growing & Using Them Today,” studies done on desert broom extracts show that it is rich in leutolin, a flavonoid that has demonstrated anti-inflammatory, antioxidant, and cholesterol-lowering capabilities. Desert broom also has quercetin, a proven antioxidant, and apigenin, a chemical which binds to the same brain receptor sites that Valium does.

Consider This

If you have an HOA you can grow many of these in your own front yard. Do then wash them well before harvest. I hose them off on the bush – and rinse again when I get them inside.

In closing – a caution. Moderation is key! Especially when trying any plant product you have never had before.  Try just a bit, then wait 24 hours before consuming again.

Father Kino’s Herbs – More Teas from Your Yard

soule-kino-southwestThe last few copies of this out-of-print award winning Southwestern book are now for sale. Father Kino’s Herbs: Growing and Using Them Today   The review says:

“Award-winning garden writer Dr. Jacqueline A. Soule has pulled together a fascinating book on the life of Father Eusebio Francisco Kino and some of the plants that he brought to Southern Arizona and northwestern Sonora, and area called the Pimeria Alta.”

A steal at only $20!  This link is to our sales site. The profits from the sale go to the local Horticulture Therapy non-profit Tierra del Sol Institute.  We hope you will help support this great Southwest non-profit!

Legal Notes

© Article copyright  Jacqueline A. Soule. All rights reserved. You must ask permission to republish an entire blog post or article. Okay to use a short excerpt but you must give proper credit. You must include a link back to the original post on our site. No stealing photos.

Disclaimer

The authors of this website have researched the edibility of the materials we discuss, however, humans vary in their ability to tolerate different foods, drinks, and herbs. Individuals consuming flowers, plants, animals or derivatives mentioned in this blog do so entirely at their own risk. The authors on this site cannot be held responsible for any adverse reaction. In case of doubt please consult your medical practitioner.

Be the first to reply

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *