by Veronica Sliva
Veronica has been gardening for as long as she can remember. When other kids were reading comics, she was reading the Stokes Seed Catalog. In the past 25 years Veronica has written hundreds of articles about gardens and gardening for magazines and newspapers. She also develops online content for Internet websites. Her regular newspaper column, In the Garden is enjoyed by readers in Durham Region, and The Garden Party is read throughout the greater Toronto area. She is also a regular contributor to HGTV.ca.
When not consumed by her garden she enjoys photography, birding, spending time at the cottage and ballroom dancing.
Veronica makes presentations on gardening topics to a variety of groups including horticultural societies, garden clubs and service clubs.
Veronica owns Sliva Communications, a business that provides a full a range of writing services including business and marketing material, technical documentation and anything that requires a wordsmith. She is a seasoned technical writer with a post graduate diploma in Technical Communications.
Veronica is a Regional Director for Canada of the Garden Writers' Association, Chair of the Oshawa Valley Botanical Garden Task Force, and a past president of the Brooklin Horticultural Society.
There’s nothing more soothing than a nice cup of tea is there? Instead of reaching for a tea bag this summer, why not snip fresh herbs from your own special “tea garden”. Summer is the perfect time to take advantage of fresh herbs and you don’t need a lot of space. In fact you don’t need a garden at all. Whether you live in a city apartment or on a large country lot, everything you need can be grown in a container just outside your door. Here are some tried and true herbs just for tea time:
The small, green and white leaves of lemon thyme have a marvelous fragrance with a pleasing lemon flavour. This spreading plant has tumbles gently over a container’s edge and sports pale lilac flowers in the summer. Use lemon thyme in any recipe calling for lemon juice or lemon zest.
This perennial mint has very pretty green and white variegated leaves with long spikes of pale white or cream flowers. Pineapple mint grows about 8 inches high. As its name suggests, it has a pleasant pineapple flavor making the leaves ideal to add to tea, fruit cups and punches. Like all mints, it can be an invasive plant in the garden and therefore makes a good candidate for container growing.
This hardy perennial plant has light green, slightly crinkled leaves with a strong minty scent. Spearmint grows best in a somewhat moist soil and can be propagated by cuttings or division. Pick the fresh leaves and leafy stem tips for use at any time. For drying, it is best to cut leaves just as flowering begins. Spearmint leaves are excellent in teas and for flavouring cold drinks. This mint makes an excellent mint sauce to go with lamb.
Orange mint is very fragrant with a citrus-like scent. The attractive green, branching stems are tinged with red as are the rounded, dark green leaves. White and pink flowers on short spikes bloom from mid to late summer. High in Vitamin A and C, you can use fresh leaves for tea as well as in salads, desserts, and garnishes.
Chamomile has dainty, daisy-like white flowers with yellow centers set on top of thin stems of feathery green leaves. The blooms appear from July to September Chamomile is a favorite herb for making tea. The plant has a lovely aromatic with a scent of apples. Steep fresh or dried flowers in boiling water to make a calming tea to relax you after a stressful day.
Lemon balm, as the name suggests tastes and smells like lemon. This perennial plant produces shiny, oval leaves with pretty scalloped edges and small, light blue to white flowers that appear in midsummer. Used throughout history as a medicinal herb, lemon balm has mild sedative properties and makes a calming tea. Fresh sprigs make a lovely garnish on salads and main dishes.
Stevia is nature’s remarkable herbal sugar substitute. It is 100 times sweeter than sugar but without the calories! You can use the leaves fresh in teas or dry and grind them to use throughout the winter. One dry leaf will sweeten a cup of tea. A liquid sweetener can be made by adding 1 tablespoon per cup of boiling water, strain through a coffee filter and keep in refrigerator for up to 2 weeks. Stevia has a pleasant flavour of its own that never dominates or overwhelms.
For Busy Gardeners
For a no-fuss tea garden already planted up for you, check out Loblaws, Superstores and retailers who sell President’s Choice products. They offer a great selection of container herb gardens that are grown by Freeman’s Herbs of Beamsville ( www.freemanherbs.com ), Ontario. I was impressed with the selection and the quality. For around $20 why do it yourself?
Recipe for Herbal Tea
The perfect cup of herbal tea refreshes and heals while it quickens your senses with its delicious warmth, taste, and aroma. Unlike caffeinated black, green, or oolong teas, herbal teas don’t darken as they become stronger; they usually remain light green or amber. Most herbal teas are made from leaves or flowers using the infusion method. Here’s how:
For each cup of tea, place 3 teaspoons of crushed fresh herbs or 1 teaspoon of dried herbs into an infuser (a screw-top or hinged container that has pin-size holes, shown below). Measure the cups of water into a pot, bring to a boil, and then pour the water into a pre-warmed teapot. Add the infuser and steep until the tea is the desired strength.