June 29, 2008
I decided to try and grow my own herbal teas this year, since we drink gallons of the stuff. As a general rule, harvest first thing in the morning, after the dew has evaporated. This is when the flavours are most intense. These are some of the herbs I’m growing and how to harvest them:
I’m got three kinds of chamomile growing: german, roman and lemon. German chamomile is more commonly used for tea as it has a slightly milder flavour, but both german and roman are used to aid digestion and relieve anxiety. I planted it in April and (after surviving a late snowfall), it has grown to about 2 feet tall and is blooming right now. The best time to snip the flowerheads is when the white petals have begun to fold back from the yellow centre. Screen dry them in a cool dark place. The lemon chamomile is almost as tall, but the leaves are more silvery grey, and I think that the flowers will be yellow in colour. Roman chamomile is much shorter and can be used as groundcover – if you mow it regularly, it will form a thick green mat that emits a lovely apple-like scent when walked on.
I’ve got mints running rampant around the garden – mint, spearmint, peppermint, orange mint, lemon balm. According to my herb book, you can cut them back by 1/2 or more, tie the stalks together and dry them in bunches hanging upside down. I’m experimenting.
I know that some people cook with lavender, but I just like the smell. Cut the stalks just before they flower because this is when the oils are the most concentrated. Tie them in bunches and hang them upside down to dry.
I have a variety of unidentified lavenders growing. I’m pretty sure that this one is Spanish lavender.
And this one is probably some variety of English lavender. I found this site to be helpful.
One of my all-time favourite smells. Did you know that French jasmine is disappearing? It’s highly prized for perfume and rarer than truffles, but most of the world jasmine production has moved to India for cost reasons. I know because I read it in a book.
I planted the vine last year and it has started to bloom – I’m going to try screen drying the blooms.
If this works out, I’ll make something with the petals – sachets? Potpourri seems so 1990s. Anyways, I have followed instructions to separate the petals and lay a single layer of them on a paper towel and repeat before weighting the whole thing with magazines. We’ll see how this pans out.
I also picked some thyme (screen dry), lemon thyme (screen dry), marjoram (bunch dry) and oregano (bunch dry). My kitchen smells great.
Finally, yesterday’s bumper crop: 65 strawberries.