Mint is our favorite homegrown tea. It makes great iced tea as well as hot tea, but on a summer day nothing is more refreshing than mint iced tea. Just straight mint leaves, fresh or dried, steeped in hot water, then add cold water. You can add sugar or honey or your favorite sweetener if you prefer it sweetened. I grow it in tires since it spreads out and takes over. The mint in this picture was cut a couple weeks ago and is growing again. In our climate I can cut it three times a year if we get enough rain or I keep it watered.
Since sugar has gotten so expensive we've started drinking it plain. It took some getting used to, and sometimes I still add sugar.
Another tea herb we grow is lemon balm. Besides using it for a pleasant, relaxing tea I planted it because if this old world ever does have some sort of catastrophe, we'll have something we can grow here in the north that smells like lemons. It's something I would miss.
Some wild plants you can use for tea, and that grow in most parts of the United States, are clover (especially Red Clover), Roses (the rose hips are the part used for tea), and Pineapple weed. Pineapple weed is a member of the Chamomile family. They grow in hard-packed ground, such as the gravely areas along roads and sidewalks, sometimes out of the cracks in sidewalks. They have a strong Chamomile smell and the flowers look like chamomile flowers with all the petals pulled off. Pineapple weed never gets the petals. They just look like little pineapples sitting atom the stems. The stems are anywhere from a few inches tall to a couple feet tall, or for our foreign readers, they're about ankle-high to knee-high. Pictured here is Pineapple weed.
When I harvest plants, either wild or domestic, and intend to use them for tea I pick or cut them, then spread them on screens to dry. If you cut something such as mint that has grown tall, you can tie them in bundles and hang them in your house to dry. We live in a dry climate so it only takes a few days for spread-out herbs to dry. In humid climates it will probably take longer. I don't have experience with drying plants in a damp climate, so if someone would like to share stories about that, I would appreciate it.
Mint, left, drying on screen.
Once the herbs are dry I store them in air-tight glass jars. You can store them in plastic bags or bottles but over time they can pick up odors or they can oxidize since plastic is somewhat porous, although it seems air-tight. If I know I'm going to use them before the next season's harvest I go ahead and use plastic if I need to. I prefer glass jars.
I save every glass jar we get, which on our budget, isn't very many. But we do occasionally buy a jar of Salsa or something else that comes in a glass jar, so I wash them out and keep them. Peanut butter and Mayonaisse used to come in glass jars but now they're hard to find in anything but plastic... at least around here.
These are Rose Hips (right). After roses are done blooming they form a small fruit that looks like a little apple. These are the 'hips', and I don't know why they are called hips! All roses and the hips are edible, but be sure the plant(s) you harvest from haven't been sprayed with things like pesticides or herbicides. It might also be safer to avoid those that grow along busy highways. I haven't heard if fumes from vehicle traffic presents a health hazard if you eat these plants and their fruits, but unless you're truly starving and can't find plants away from highways, pass them up just in case. Perhaps one of you readers have information on this.
To make tea with the hips you can crush and steep them. Some people remove the little hairy seeds inside them first. Just as a matter of interest, you can make jelly with the hips, too, if you're a jelly-maker.
Pictures on the left is white clover.
Here's an interesting tidbit about white clover. I don't know if it applies to other kinds of clover, but you can dry the white clover heads and grind them into flour. It can be added to regular wheat flour for variety in nutrients, or to extend the flour to provide more meals. This is useful information if times become very desperate. This was done during the famine in Ireland, among other times and places.
I admit to still being in the learning process myself, so I have shared with you what I know, while admitting what I don't know. Comments, suggestions, and any information you wish to share are helpful. We can all learn together.
As with all plants, both wild and domestic, make SURE you are certain the plant is what you think it is. If you have any doubt, find someone reputable that knows the plant and ask. In most places you can pick a sample of the plant and take it to the county extension office and they'll tell you what it is. Please be careful as you learn.
"I live in N Central Texas, which has become quite humid over some years, and how I dry my tea (and other) herbs is in brown paper bags. The herb must be completely dry and the bag as well, with nothing else in it. If I am hanging the herb(s) in bunches (like Yarrow), I put them in the bag, top down, and tie a tie around the top of the bag and hang it in the driest place I have. Otherwise, I put the herb in the bag, roll the bag down at the top, clip it and set in a dry place. This has worked very well for me.
And thank you for your lovely blog. :)
Received via email Tues. August 21, 2012. Thank you, MtWoman! I'm guessing the paper bag wicks moisture away from the plants as they dry? It's wonderful to get this tip from someone who lives in a humid climate.