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Garden Variety

Simple ways to make your own herbal teas.

 

From chamomile to mint to lemon balm, drying fresh herbs for aromatic teas, otherwise known as tisanes, is simple and gives you yet another reason to put your summer herb garden to use. To preserve the potency and flavor for a tisane, be sure to harvest herbs right before the plant begins to bud, and in mid-morning when nighttime’s dew has evaporated. The main exception to this rule are flowers, such as chamomile, which should be harvested when the blooms are fully opened and the petals begin to push back, and lavender, whose actual buds contain all of the flavor and fragrance of the plant.


Bunching method: Gather about a dozen stems in a bundle, remove any weeds or browned leaves and secure with a rubber band or twine. Hang upside-down and away from direct sunlight until dry. Herbs will take anywhere from one to three weeks to dry using this method.

Rack-drying:
Arrange herbs in a single layer between two sheets of cheesecloth on a raised baking rack or window screen, making sure air can circulate throughout. Alternatively, secure herbs between sheets of cheesecloth with a large embroidery hoop and hang until dry.

Oven-drying: Place a single layer of herbs on a cookie sheet and bake on the coolest oven setting, no hotter than 170 degrees F. Stir gently every hour to ensure even drying; herbs should be dry within a few hours. Alternatively, if you have a gas oven you can dry herbs over two to three days with heat from the pilot light.

Once dry—which, depending on the method you choose, could take anywhere from a few days to several weeks—pluck the leaves from their stems and store whole. This will keep a leaf’s delicate oils intact for up to one year. When you’re ready to brew some tea, crumble the herbs gently with your fingertips and steep 1 1/2 teaspoons of crushed, dried herbs in eight ounces of near-boiling water for about five minutes, strain and enjoy. And don’t be shy about combining herbs for your own custom blends and drying and mixing in your favorite fruits. From blueberry with lavender to lemon peel with chamomile, the pairing possibilities abound.

 

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