(photo from trademe books ; it's still available there and on Amazon as a used book.)
It's time to think tea. Not sweet Southern tea, not black tea, but herb tea. This is the perfect time to gather some of my favorites.
I almost forgot about teas in the rush of getting gardens ready. With limited time and many projects it can be easy to let the right time for harvesting slip right by me. Tea was on my to-do list for the past weekend, but the gardens too most of Saturday and Sunday's rain washed out any chance of bright dry sunshine which is perfect tea-gathering weather.
So my harvest is on hold. I did well two years ago, picking and drying most of my favorites. Last year I grabbed a few things on the run, but that was it. This year I intend to do better. We shall see.
I found the above book at a used book place--the book was in poor condition, so it was dead cheap (like 25 cents cheap). When I opened it, the pages fell open to Coltsfoot. Yes, our early spring friend can apparently be used to make tea. It's not too late to gather it, either. Although the blossoms can be used for tea, the leaves can be too and should be harvested when they reach full size, which is right about now. You can guess--the book came home with me. It's a good resource for a quick history of tea, cultivating herbs, planning an herb garden, harvesting, and blending your own custom mixes. No color pictures but solid information.
What can be gathered now? Most leaf teas like lemon balm, raspberry, blackberry, strawberry, and mints. Some flowers are ready too, like chamomile and roses.
I prefer to dry them on trays in a barely warm oven to drying in a dehydrator because the dehydrator seems to make the leaves too dry, if that makes sense. Hanging upside down in a dry, airy place works well too, especially if you cover the herbs with a brown paper bag to block direct sunlight that takes away the color and I think leaches out the flavor.
Tomorrow evening might be my chance to gather my favorites--blackberry and raspberry leaves. It is supposed to be a dry, sunny day. It would be better to do my harvesting in the morning but this pesky thing called a job gets in the way, so I'll have to make do with evening.
Do you gather your own teas? What are your favorites? Anything new and exotic to recommend? One I read about in this book is lavender tea, which I had not heard of. Anyone tried it?