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Tea Garden: 5 Easy Favorites

Growing herbal tea plants is probably one of the easiest gardening projects there are. They are also the easiest of edible plants to grow in your permaculture garden.

Most herbs used for tea are perennials, and many are very pretty, and most are very fragrant. They make a very lovely edible garden border. They work beautifully in biodiversity islands – clumps of beneficial plants that we scatter around in permaculture gardens to attract good bugs, increase pollinator presence and offer other positive influences for the overall health of the ecosystem.

I have some older posts on tea garden plants, which still hold true.

Gardening with Herbs – Tea Time / Drying Herbs for Tea / Herbal Teas – Winter Harvest

Today I want to praise 5 easy favorites that just must be included in any permaculture garden or food forest plant list.

1. Strawberry Clover

Happy and rampant, this is a great ground cover for orchards. It is also a wonderful animal forage, loved by chickens, bees, bumble bees and all sorts of four-legged farm livestock. Its foliage is sweet and juicy, and flowers are lovely deep pink to near magenta, depending on the variety. A good trusted source of organic, non-GMO seed is Peaceful Valley Farm Supply – and for a tea garden very little seed is needed. But since they sell seed by the pound, it pays to have a plan on how to use the rest of it as re-vegetation or habitat plant elsewhere on your land.

strawberry_clover

Hand-pick flowers starting in early June – the plant will produce more blossoms all summer long. Don’t plant in the vegetable garden, as this plant seems to be too happy to stay in one place!

2. Lemon Balm/ Melissa

This plant is from the mint family. Most mints seem to spread, but Lemon Balm is not one of them, as far as I can tell. It stays in a tidy mound, producing aromatic foliage that is hard to surpass when it comes to tea flavors. The herb is considered to be a very mild acting anti-depressant, probably due to its wonderful refreshing aroma.

Lemon Balm seems to fit well in a biodiversity hedge of a vegetable garden. It dies back in the winter, and is a bit sensitive in very cold climates. Mulch it very well to protect from winter cold, and uncover in the spring so it does not rot.

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3. Strawberry

Perhaps if you are like me, you find that growing strawberries takes too much effort. Or, perhaps you are very good at it. Either way, strawberry leaves are very good in teas, it cleanses our body and freshens our blood. The leaves taste fresh but not very exciting, so use in moderation and mix with other herbs.

strawberry
4. Alfalfa

Alfalfa grows easily just about anywhere. That is another good  plant for your food forest ground cover, or animal pasture. It is impossible to remove from the ground once it has taken hold, so choose location very carefully. Alfalfa seed is now genetically modified, and foraging wild alfalfa is not safe. Organic seed can be purchased at the Peaceful Valley Farm Supply. Alfalfa is loved by bees and bumble bees, by chickens and beneficial insects – and it makes good tea. Fresh and slightly buttery tasting tea is a good base for other flavors. Harvest blossoming ends in early to mid-June.

alfalfa
5. Chamomile

I was going to include Stinging Nettle as Favorite #5, but I have described this wonderful tea plant in other posts. Now the spotlight is on Chamomile. It tastes awesome, different from the store-bought tea. It grows easily, and reseeds (or maybe it comes back, hard to tell). Flowers are hard to harvest. But I still give Chamomile a moment of appreciation, for its taste and freshness.

basket of flowers

Drying Your Herbs

Harvest herbs in their due time – leafy parts before blossoming occurs, blossoms when they just open and are not seeded yet. In a low-humidity climate you can place plants on a flat surface away from the direct sunlight, and air dry for a few days.

Oven with pilot light on is another good location for drying your herbs, but do not over-do it, as heating destroys nutrients.

Once herbs are dry and leaves or blossoms “shatter” from being handled, it is time to package them. I crush dried herb in my hands to make it less bulky and more tea-leaf like – and then place in jars, either separate or in combination. One-gallon jar lasts through about mid-winter with moderate consumption by two adults. Tea plants will be your favorites, include them in your garden now!

 

 

 

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