Making herbal tea from your garden

From the literal tea garden.EXPAND
From the literal tea garden.

New York Times gardening writer Michael Tortorello recently introduced me to the pleasures of trading stale, packaged herbal teas for ones made fresh from the backyard. Tortorello plucked a number of infusion-friendly herbs, leaves, and flowers--marjoram, dandelion, clover--from his yard and invited a few friends over for a garden tea party.

We put about a tablespoon of plant material (crushing or tearing helps release essential oils) in a strainer, added a cup of hot water, and let the mix steep for about 10 minutes. Some of my favorite blends included those with mint, fennel, lavender, and lemon verbena. The flavors tend to be mild but refreshing, akin to a cucumber or lemon water.

When cupped side by side, our best blends tasted just as good the standard, supermarket-bought Celestial Seasonings-type teas. (Admittedly, our worst blends--including a "suicide" mix I made using every type of plant matter available--tasted more like swamp water.) In some cases, the garden flavors seemed brighter, perhaps due to the freshness of the herbs, and now I'm curious to try my garden tea iced.

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