There are few things that I am as particular about as tea. If you can’t tell that the stuff in the tea bags is leaves, it’s not worth your time. Loose leaf is better anyway. (There’s only one exception to this rule, you can ask me if you’re curious.)
That said, I had a great day at the farm today. I showed up, made tea, and picked my chamomile flowers as my work for the day. I think I have it pretty good!
The blend I made was roughly equal parts mint and anise hyssop with some chamomile. The chamomile reduces down quite a bit in the dehydrator so right now I don’t have a whole lot of it to use. However, the plants are really putting out a lot of blooms now, so that won’t be a problem for long.
Making the tea is pretty simple, but I’ll walk through the my process.
First, boil water. I use a simple electric kettle. Depending on what kind of tea you are brewing, you’ll want to use the water at different temperatures. You’ll only want to use boiling water for black teas. If you use boiling water for green tea or any herbal infusions where parts are still green, then the result will be a drink that tastes way more bitter than it needs to be. Use water that’s around 160°F to 170°F to keep the drink from becoming too bitter. The best way is to have a thermometer, but my rule of thumb is that after the kettle boils is to let the water sit for about 15 minutes and then it will be about right.
Second, brew the herbs! Just pour your appropriate temperature water over the herbs and leave them brewing for about four minutes. You can brew them in an infusing basket or ball, or you can let the material float freely in the water. You’ll just have to strain the drink as you pour it into your cup. Most tea pots will come with a basket of some sort.
And third, take out the herbs and enjoy! A little honey in the tea goes a long way, but I really enjoyed this blend without any honey or sugar. It tasted very light and was pleasantly green and fresh. I’m no good at explaining flavors, but it was really very good!
I’m not sure how much tea we will end up with, but I think we’ll want to try and sell some of the blend at market. But meanwhile, I encourage you to go out and find some great loose leaf tea to brew yourself and enjoy.
I had never used this plant or even knew about it being used as tea before Corey suggested it. The leaves have a nice licorice scent. Unfortunately, when I first brewed the tea, the mint and the chamomile over powered the anise hyssop. I did brew some tea that only used the Anise Hyssop! I didn’t really enjoy it all that much, but I actually just don’t like licorice taste. But if you like licorice, Anise Hyssop is for you.
Anise Hyssop is also commonly known as Giant Hyssop or Lavender Giant Hyssop. This plant is scientifically named Agastache foeniculum and it is in Lamiaceae, the mint family. While the common name shares “Hyssop” with Hyssopus officinalis, and Hyssop and Anise Hyssop are both in the Lamiaceae family, those two plants are not closely related. Hyssop (Hyssopus officinalis) is native to southern Europe. Anise Hyssop (Agastache foeniculum) is native to the North American Great Plains and other prairies in North America.
As far as uses for this herb, there’s a lot out there saying what Native American’s used this herb for, but I can’t say for certain that I ever found what I would trust as a reliable source. The most common thread was that it was used in wound care due to it’s antiseptic properties and that it was also used to treat burns. As a tea it was supposedly used to treat colds. Culinarily, it can be used wherever mint would be used (like with chicken or fish), and it can also be mixed into green salads. I’ve not tried these, but I think I will in the future!
Used in a garden, Anise Hyssop is a hardy drought resistant perennial. The flowers will attract pollinators and hummingbirds and the plant is pleasantly fragrant. This plant doesn’t really need to be coddled at all, growing it from seed is easy.
I think this is probably an under-utilized herb. I certainly hadn’t heard of it! Whether you want to attract pollinators and hummingbirds to your garden or use it in the kitchen, it’ll be easy to plant, grow, and keep around.
I’ve always enjoyed teas with mint in it, so I was glad to find out weeks ago that we had some mint growing in one of the front garden beds of the Howdy Farm. In this blog post I described how I mixed black tea and some mint to make tea earlier this semester!
Mint plants are part of the genus Mentha in the family Lamiaceae. Species of mint are widely distributed Europe, Africa, Asia, Australia, and North America. The mint growing near the front of the farm is Spearmint which is native to Europe and Asia, but naturalized to North and South America.
Many people have planted mint to start out herb gardening, and it’s a good plant for that, but you have make sure it doesn’t take over the planting bed. It’s a perennial and can be pretty weedy since it spreads by rhizomes, or runners. It might be better to keep it in its own container, or you could even have it in a container that you bury in your planting bed with just the top inch or so of the container above the soil. This will keep it from spreading out and taking over. Mint will do fine in partial shade, all it really needs is for the soil to stay a little moist. If there’s a part of your garden that is less elevated and most rainwater flows over, mint would be a good choice for planting there (not standing water, that would suffocate the mint).
Mint has been used to soothe nausea in traditional medicine for a long time, and some studies have been conducted to see if mint helps manage IBS symptoms. From what I’ve found, it looks like mint can help a little, but only marginally. So, again, herbal tea is mostly just nice to drink instead of medically effective.
The semester is about to wrap up and I’ll just be honest: this semester has gone by faster than any other I’ve experienced. It’s crazy. But this probably just means that I’ve enjoyed all my horticulture classes a lot more than any other college courses I’ve taken so far… so I’m in the right place!
The Farm really is in full swing now, harvesting and selling lettuce, turnips, beets, cabbage, kale, kohlrabi, onions, snow peas, and sugar snap peas! It’s so exciting seeing things that I’ve planted now going to market.
Another amazing thing is that it’s already week twelve of the semester. I’ve never felt that a semester has gone by faster than this one. As we are way more than half way through, I’m starting to see how my internship’s project will wrap up. It’s turning out a little bit different than what I had imagined, but that’s how these things will go sometimes.
So the original idea was to grow a permaculture garden of plants that could be made for tea. As of right now the only thing that will be ready to make into tea in my plot is the chamomile. However, there are other things at the farm I can use with my chamomile to make a tea blend. Hopefully the fruit of my internship will be a ready to brew loose leaf herbal tea blend, with some instructions as to how to brew it.
The three plants used in this blend will be chamomile, anise hyssop, and mint. In my next few blog posts I will give a profile of the hyssop and the mint, and some tea brewing instruction.
The harvest and preparation of these three has been pretty simple. You just pick the part that you use for tea (leaves for mint and hyssop while the flowers for chamomile) and dry them so they can be stored for long periods of time before using. For some I have used a dehydrator that’s at the farm, and for others I have put the oven on the lowest temperature and kept the door open. Both methods have worked well.
Right now the herbs are being kept in paper bags, but when I’m ready to put them together in a final blend I’d like to have a nice opaque container for them. It’s best to keep tea stored away from light so that it will last as long as possible.
That’s where we are now! Again, I can’t believe it’s already week twelve. Hang in there, y’all!
Last Saturday, April 1st, was the Spring Plant Sale for the Howdy Farm and the Horticulture Club. The sale officially starts at 9 AM, but people were starting to show up and mill around the farm by 8:15 AM, just to give you an idea of how crazy the rush is at the start.
I worked the produce tables selling green butterhead and red butterhead lettuce, napa cabbage, curly leaf kale, turnips, golden beets, regular head cabbage, sugar snap peas, and snow peas. It was a real scramble getting everyone through the line, running around getting change for cash, and making sure people knew where to check out. But I thoroughly enjoyed it! Which is a pleasant surprise for me, as I didn’t think I’d be able to work very well in a market setting.
Until now, I had not been to a Howdy Farm market before. We haven’t had many Saturday markets so far, but I will be making them a priority from now on for sure. I know they probably aren’t this crazy, but I really enjoyed connecting with people that are at least interested, if not excited, about local farm grown food as I am. There is something about food beyond Horticulture for me. A connectedness that can be gained over a dinner table, and the steps getting to the dinner table, that’s different than any other. That is amplified, I believe, when we are intentional concerning what we eat and how we eat. Horticulture gives me the tools to become intentional with food, help others become intentional with their food, and to do all of this well. Because anything worth doing is worth doing well.
I’ve always had trouble talking to people, and I still wouldn’t consider myself a people person. But if I can find common ground that’s more stable than the weather or being in the same college class, then I find it much easier to close the gap. It’s a real struggle for me, and something I need to work at, but I am so grateful for my time so far at the Howdy Farm helping me find another way to connect to people.