Herb Tea

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Over the years I've experimented with various dried things for winter teas and have come up with some good tasting basic brews. Drying herbs and such is easy, fun, and cheap. We have a rack that holds frames of screening positioned over our wood stove and it's full late summer and fall. [In winter the screens are replaced with sticks and it becomes a sock drying rack.] Many herbs are just tied together with string and hung in an out of the way place until dry, then stripped and jarred when I have time.

If you're new to growing, drying, and using your own herbs be aware that they're much stronger than store bought ones. So go lightly when first adding to food and teas, increasing to taste.

I've found comfrey leaves to be a great base tea. The taste is similar to regular tea and is good by itself. I sometimes add dried flowers (calendula, borage, rose, violet family) to the comfrey. Their flavor is subtle but maybe it's more for esthetics anyway. I use a glass measuring cup to make my tea in and the dried flower petals are pretty!

Another flavor can be had by adding dried orange peel, cloves and allspice - Homestead Constant Comment tea, and no packaging!

Along a different line, raspberry or strawberry leaves make a milder base. With a few chamomile flowers and some dried strawberries it's a very nice, calm tea. Use a light touch on the chamomiles (home dried ones) and don't steep for too long - they can get inedibly strong.

To dry strawberries I use our late, everbearing crop (since the woodstove is going many days then). Slice them onto a pottery plate and set by the heat. When they've started drying, peel them up and turn over. (If you wait too long you have to kind of chisel them off.) Then turn them now and then until dried. Can't say as they're "pretty" in the tea but the flavor is sure nice. You can also dry them in the solar dryer too of course (and if you have enough they're great eaten plain for a snack).

Fireweed leaves make another great base tea. They grow wild in our area and I harvest some each fall for that purpose (though as the ecosystem around us naturally changes I'm finding much less of that plant).

Two of my standards for tea (usually added to comfrey or fireweed) is mint and lemon balm. They are both easy to grow (though mint spreads something terrific so either keep it contained or plan on a regular regimen of pulling runners) and they both make good tea.

A bit of honey added seems to enhance them all, and I often throw in a few clover blossoms or rose hips when I have them.

Herb teas are fun, inexpensive, and good drinking. You can stick with a few basics or go crazy experimenting with combinations. There is a wealth of information available in books and magazines on which herbs are edible, both garden grown and gathered wild. So plan to dry, mix, and brew your own -- and the nonexclusive, open to all, herb tea affectionado club!