Posts Tagged ‘gardening’

Healing Herbs

Sunday, June 17th, 2012

June, 2012. On my last weekend jaunt in Tobermory, I came across a very tempting jumble of books for sale at the local library. Nestled among the cookbooks, ancient hardcovers and fast-food novels I found the Rodale Herb Book, published in 1973. I am a collector of herb books. No matter how old the book, each offers a fresh view on cookery, medicals and dyes. I love nothing better than to sit back with a cup of tea and learn new stuff about herbs.

There are hundreds if not thousands of uses for herbs, but my all time favourite is tea-making. Every evening from spring through to fall, I’ve made a ritual of harvesting a bunch of herbs from my garden for fresh tea. This habit began years ago when I lived in London and had built up a great medicinal collection to experiment with. My poor sister who suffered from headaches and stomach problems was the frequent recipient of my brews. Eventually I picked up enough knowledge to help with minor ailments, and luckily didn’t kill anyone while doing it. I found the entire process of tea making from seed planting to drinking absolutely magical.

My favourite Scott Barnim mug filled with the combination of the day.

My herb collection is by no means comprehensive, but even with the few dozen I have, I can easily make a different tea each time. My technique? Around an hour or so after supper, I wander through the sections with a small knife, choosing an appropriate combination for the day. I collect a handful of 4-5 herbs, stems and all, or flowers with their centres. Lightly wash them in cold water. Put them in a little brown betty teapot, and pour freshly boiled water on top. Allow to steep for 5 minutes or so. Then strain into a mug (white mugs are best, so I can see the colour). All the drinks are very refreshing, even when they are hot. Sometimes I put the strained brew in the fridge for iced tea. People who are used to tea from dry leaves find that the same herbs taste very different when fresh. Once they’ve had fresh tea, it’s not easy to go back.

I do have some favourite combinations. Peppermint, bronze fennel, perilla and chamomile flowers make a great blend and it’s a beautiful clear jade colour. I like peppermint in all my teas. But the sky is the limit – recently I added lavender to the mix. Catmint is supposed to help with sleep, so when I’ve had a bout of insomnia, I will mix it with chamomile and spearmint. It tastes strong and bitter!!, but it works. Calendula flowers help with digestion. And recently I learned that the petals of calendula are edible and high in carotenoids including lutein – great for the eyes. I use them in salads all the time.

I believe that the benefit of fresh tea doesn’t come only from the drinking: all steps from planting to harvest are healing activities. I love knowing that the soil’s molecules absorbed by their roots will eventually become part of my body. Working my land, drinking water from our well, breathing oxygen purified from our trees, and even our septic system! make me feel that I participate in the cycles of nature.

If you would like to see my gardens and try out one of my teas, come and visit me during the Hamilton Open Garden Tour. My garden and studio will be open from June 30 to July 2, 2012 10-4 each day. There will be plenty of other gardens to see during that time period. I will post the link with map and info when it becomes available. I would love to see you!

My kitchen garden so far this year.



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