Blooms for Infusions

In February 2014 we were delighted to be approached by Laura at Grow Your Own Magazine with a request to write an article for the popular Flowers on the Plot page focusing on blooms that can be used to make teas. Being our very first request of this kind, how could we refuse?

Blooms for Infusions

Ted spent a few days coming up with ideas for the piece, and researching great varieties we could include in the article. One evening we sat down together and went for it. The results of our efforts, wonderfully entitled ‘Blooms for Infusions’ can be found on page 55 of May’s issue of Grow Your Own Magazine, and we are so pleased with the results!

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You can read our article here, but we would love it if you bought the magazine for yourself. Not only will you receive a FREE copy of Anna Pavord’s great book, Growing Food, the mag is full of interesting articles, hints and tips for all keen gardeners. We hope you enjoy it!

Blooms for Infusions

If you enjoy herbal and floral teas but have never tried making your own from scratch, you really must have a go! An infusion of fresh leaves and blooms is, in our opinion, far more flavoursome than any made with the dried equivalent. Not only will brewing your own teas help you to see your garden in a different light, it will allow you to create a signature blend, and save a few pounds along the way.  All that is required is an infuser teapot, tea ball or muslin bag for the leaves or blooms and freshly boiled water, it really couldn’t be simpler.

Before you start, be sure to know the origins of your plants. Anything described as an ‘edible flower’ should be free from toxins, whether naturally occurring or artificial. Grow your own plants from seeds, buy organically grown from a trusted nursery. Steer clear of hybrids, and as with all herbal infusions, drink in moderation and avoid completely if pregnant.

One of the first teas we brewed was Chamomile, a favourite night time drink to aid sleep. The tea is made solely from the beautiful white and yellow daisy like flowers, and requires nothing more than just off the boil water and a handful of flowers for an average sized teapot; I love to leave the flowers floating in the cup for decoration. Choose German Matricaria recutita chamomile for tea, as it’s simple to grow from seed and easy to care for. A member of the daisy family, chamomile prefers a sunny spot, and thrives in sandy soil. Use the flowers regularly to encourage further growth from the plant.

Another member of the daisy family is Feverfew Tanacetum parthenium, again simple to grow from seed straight in the bed. It’s well known for its ability to relieve the symptoms of migraine. Some people may find the taste of this one slightly bitter, and prefer to use it in a blend or sweetened with Stevia or honey. To prevent excessive self seeding, remember to dead head at the end of the season.

To enjoy teas from early blooms, opt for Viola Tricolour, also known as Heartsease. Said to be the original viola or wild pansy, and so named as it was claimed in Victorian times to ease a broken heart, Viola tricolour boasts a blend of purple, blue, yellow and white flowers. A hardy annual, Heartsease will readily self seed from just a few flowers left on a plant at the end of the season. Grow under cover in March or September, or straight in the bed where they will grow from March through to August.

An English Garden simply would not be complete without a Lavender or two, and the tea is one of our firm favourites. Whilst the flowers of most varieties may be used for teas, we would recommend Hidcote Lavandula angustifolia  which produces an abundance of beautiful deep violet flowers on silvery grey foliage. Lavender is very slow to grow from seed, yet extremely rewarding if you have the patience to do so! A drought resistant plant, lavender stocks are easily increased by taking semi-hardwood cuttings.

For a blast of summer colour, Calendula or pot marigold is a great addition to any garden. Iy’s a fast and easy annual to grow from seed annual, sow straight into the bed anytime from March to May. We love Calendula officinalis var. Indian Prince for its vivid orange blooms.  Try Calendula Iced Tea for a delicious summer drink, and don’t forget to collect the seeds for next years crop by shaking the seed heads into a paper bag in the autumn!

To achieve a taste of the Middle East from an English favourite, try Rose Petal Tea. Choose roses with sweet fragrances such as David Austin’s ‘Gertrude Jekyll’, Fragrant Plum, or Heritage for a sweet citrus scent, and use only the healthiest petals free from morning dew. To create a taste of the Orient, try brewing a Chrysanthemum Tea from the flowers of the common yellow Chrysanthemum indicum.

 

How to Make a Herbal Tea

What we refer to as herb tea or herbal tea is not strictly a tea, but a tisane.

A true tea, be it black, white or green must be made from the camellia Sinensis plant – of which there are numerous varieties. Our herbal teas are in fact tisanes or infusions, made by steeping herbs in freshly boiled water for a few minutes.

Fresh vs. Dried Teas

Creating fresh, herbal teas at home is such a simple process. Whilst you can buy boxes of dried herb teas and teabags, the taste produced by using fresh herbs is much more intense and the colours more vivid. If you enjoy drinking different flavoured teas throughout the day, a well chosen collection of herbs and flowers in the garden is far more appealing than stocking your cupboards with numerous boxes of herbal teas!

Making a Herbal Tea

Making a herbal tea requires nothing more than freshly boiled water and leaves from your chosen herb.

  • Scrunch four or five leaves to help them release their essential oils (the goodness and flavour) and place in a pot
  • Cover with freshly boiled water and leave to stand for around five minutes
  • Pour and sweeten to taste with honey

Do I need a Special Teapot?

Whilst a standard teapot will do the job, the tea will require straining before consumption and larger herbs may block the spout. Choose a teapot complete with integrated straining basket, sometimes known as a tisaniere. I love this glass teapot from The White Company, along with the matching stylish glass mugs.

Glass Teapot from The White Company

 

If you don’t have such an item, we find that a cafetiere or French press works just as well; simply leave your tea to brew and plunge before serving.

What Herbal Teas Should I Try First?

If you have never made your own herbal teas, I would recommend starting with a mint tea. Any type of mint you have growing in your garden will produce a tasty homemade mint tea, and I urge you to try different varieties to experience the differences in flavour. For an average pot use four or five mint leaves, and leave to infuse for around five minutes.

Lemon fans should try lemon verbena tea for a fresh zesty taste. This one produces a strong flavour, so start with just three or four leaves. Lemon verbena is wonderful before bed to help you sleep, whilst lemon balm – whilst producing a similarly flavoured tea is a great pick me up. Herbal lemon teas are particularly good sweetened with honey if they are a little too sharp for your taste.

In the colder months when herbs are few and far between, rosemary tea is a delicious winter warmer. Add one or two 5cm sprigs to your pot and leave to infuse as usual. Sage tea also works well; I like to add a squeeze of lemon juice to my sage tea.