LESS IS MORE: Herbs, fresh is best

You can buy herbal teas, dried, in little bags. But then there’s the real thing. This is homegrown lemongrass tea.  Picture: Tricia Hogbin

You can buy herbal teas, dried, in little bags. But then there’s the real thing. This is homegrown lemongrass tea. Picture: Tricia Hogbin

IF I had to choose one drink I couldn’t do without – it would be tea. My day is littered with many quick cuppas. The moment is as important as the contents of my cup. It’s time to stop, reflect, relax, and when I’m fortunate to be with friends – a time to chat. 

But you’ll rarely find tea bags dangling in my cup. I prefer my brew to be herbal, homegrown and weedy – and often the contents reflect the season, my mood, and my health. 

If it wasn’t for herbal tea I suspect I’d rarely drink sufficient water throughout the day. Drinking herbal tea is an easy way to increase water intake, particularly when it’s chilly and the last thing you feel like drinking is cold water. It’s also an easy way to take healing herbs and increase your intake of antioxidants. Far more pleasurable (and cheaper) than popping a pill. 

You can buy herbal teas bags. But often the contents are stale, highly processed, and of a volume far too small to be of benefit. And it seems silly to buy herbal teas when they are so easy to grow and forage. 

Many herbs that can be used as tea thrive in pots and tolerate neglect. My favourite is lemongrass. To make lemongrass tea, simply pull off a single stem, squash it into a ball and roll it between your palms. This bruises the stem and helps to release juices and oils. Pop the stem into a tea pot, cover with boiling water, and brew for around ten minutes. 

Other herbal tea plants that are easy to grow and can be picked all year round include lemon balm, the mints (common mint, peppermint and spearmint), sage and thyme. 

Thyme, lime and honey is one of my favourite teas for helping to speed up recovery from colds and flu. The thyme is antibacterial and antiviral. The lime gives you a good dose of vitamin C. And the honey is antibacterial and soothes the throat.  

There are other herbal teas that can be harvested from your garden when in season, like raspberry leaf, rosehips and calendula and chamomile flowers. These can be brewed fresh or dried for later use. 

To dry herbs you can hang bunches upside down for a couple of weeks, spread leaves or flowers out on racks, or use a dehydrator. Once completely dry, herbs can be crushed and stored in a glass jar. 

I’m currently drying bunches of stinging nettle by hanging them in our shed. Nettle tea is one of my favourite teas. It’s delicious, rich in minerals, high in iron, and a gentle natural diuretic that is good at flushing out toxins. Nettle season is short in my neck of the woods, so I’m doing my best to collect and dry a year’s worth of nettle tea. 

Chickweed is another favourite brew at this time of year. I simply toss a handful of stems into a pot or a few stems into a cup. 

Most herbal tea leaves can be reused to make a second and third cup. They continue to release goodness and flavour. Today I started with nettle tea. Next I added a lemongrass stem to the remnants of nettle leaves. After enjoying the nettle and lemongrass tea, I added a handful of chickweed. Each brew was unique.

 And, as a bonus, I didn’t have to wash the pot between uses.

Tricia Hogbin shares tips for living better with less at littleecofootprints.com and on Instagram (TriciaEco). 

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