What could be better than curling up with a nice hot cup of herbal tea when the weather turns brisk? I’ll tell you what – curling up with a nice hot cup of tea that you cultivated and prepared yourself! While growing the actual tea plant (Camellia sinensis) is typically best left to those who live in zone 8 or warmer, there are many herbal plants that make wonderful non-caffeinated beverages that are easy to grow – even indoors.
Herbal teas – technically called tisanes – are not only delicious and soothing, but many of them also have a number of health benefits. (More on that in a moment.)
Growing and blending your own herbal teas is also a wonderful way to express your creativity using various parts (leaves, flowers and buds) of different herbs. Herbs may be used fresh or dried – and homemade herbal teas also can make a great gift.
While the herbs discussed below may be grown either outdoors or indoors, growing your own indoor herbal tea garden has the advantage of allowing you access to fresh herbs during the coldest months of the year – which is often the time we crave a nice hot relaxing beverage the most!
Starting Your Indoor Herbal Tea Garden
Begin by deciding which types of herbs you wish to grow. Below are just a few of the different herbs that you may want to consider growing:
1. Lavender – easy to grow on a sunny windowsill, lavender is well-known for its beautiful fragrance. It has a spicy floral flavor and has a calming effect.
2. Chamomile – these tiny, white flowers are wonderful as a sleep aid and help calm an upset stomach. They will give a slight apple scent to your homemade teas.
3. Mint – mint tea is excellent for soothing an upset stomach or even helping with menstrual cramps. It will give your tea a refreshing and peppery flavor.
4. Bergamot – the herb that gives Earl Grey tea its distinctive flavor, this plant produces purple flowers with a citrus taste. It is also easy to grow indoors since it can do well in either full side or partial shade.
5. Rosemary – while you may think of this herb as one to flavor savory dishes with, it can also be used in herbal teas. Rosemary has been used as a medicinal plant for thousands of years as has been proven to be effective in aiding indigestion and recently has shown promise in boosting brain function.
6. Lemon verbena – this plant can do well indoors, assuming it has very good drainage. Lemon verbena is said to be excellent in helping with weight management, reducing inflammation and clearing up congestion.
7. Anise – If you enjoy the taste of black licorice, you will definitely want to include anise (not star anise) in your indoor tea garden. The licorice flavor comes from seeds produced in the plant’s white flowers. Anise tea may be used as a home remedy for digestive problems, such as nausea and indigestion.
8. Marjoram – this plant has a slightly fruity and sour flavor that can add an interesting dynamic to your tea. It is good for various digestive complaints, such as intestinal gas and poor appetite.
9. Stevia – if you like a bit of sweetness to your tea but are trying to cut down on your sugar intake, you will want to include stevia in your herb garden. Stevia adds a punch of sweetness to your brew without the extra calories and is considered safe for diabetics.
For each herb that you plant, you also will want to select the appropriate size of container. If you are starting your plants from seed, you must choose a well-balanced soil and keep containers in a warm place until they germinate. As a general rule, you will want to ensure that each plant receives at least six hours of sunlight a day, so be sure to keep them near a windowsill or other suitable spot. Grow lights also are an option.
Harvesting Your Herbs
Herbs may be harvested at any time, but many people find that the flavor is at its fullest when the plant is in bud. To make your herbal teas, you may use the plant’s leaves, buds or petals. A tisane may be made from a single type of herb, or you may flex your creative muscles and experiment with blends.
Preparing Your Herbal Tea
Herbal teas may be made with fresh or dry herbs. If using fresh herbs, harvest the parts of the plant that you wish to use and then crush them between your fingers. Doing so will help to release both flavor and scent. Using a strainer or tea ball, place 2 teaspoons of fresh herbs into 8 ounces of hot water and let steep for 3-5 minutes.
If you wish to use dried herbs, harvest your herbs and either hang them to dry or dry them in a dehydrator before storing in an airtight container. When you are ready to make your tea, steep 1 teaspoon in 8 ounces of hot water for 3-5 minutes.
If you love growing your own food, and you also enjoy herbal teas and experimenting with different flavors, then why not combine those interests and start your very own indoor herbal tea garden this winter?