Apologies for this past week’s disappearance — nothing much happened, the heat wave had just baked our brains to the point where I couldn’t be bothered to go in the kitchen for anything more than a cold glass of water. Stringing together intelligible syllables gets more difficult as these summer days progress. I have been out in the garden a lot, however, both to get some fresh air and to take advantage of weather that my plants love, even if I do not. This is the first of what I hope to be many posts that kind of cross over between two of my favorite hobbies, cooking and gardening. I don’t claim to be anything more an enthusiastic amateur at either, but I have fun doing them and like sharing my adventures with others.
This past weekend, I brewed up my first pitcher of home-grown tea! Well, I didn’t grow the tea myself, but I grew the other plants I put in with the tea 🙂 It’s a mint, lemon balm and white tea mixture, perfect for this time of year. Made in a similar manner to straight Moroccan mint tea, except with a couple more ingredients and without a fancy tea set.
My lemon balm (left) and Moroccan mint (right) plants were getting a bit out of hand, so I cut off several sprigs of both. It gave them a much-needed pruning and gave me a large handful of fragrant leaves for my beverage-making needs. These two have since been moved to my hanging kitchen garden, by the way, to make them more accessible for future tea-making activities. They also make the room smell so nice when you brush by them.
Moroccan mint is actually just a strong variety of spearmint, so that can be substituted if it’s what you’ve got. Lemon balm is good for repelling insects (especially mosquitoes) in addition to smelling pleasantly of citrus, so it’s nice to have around for practical as well as culinary reasons. Both are from the mint family, as you can tell by the similarity in their leaves.
Pluck all the leaves off the stems and give them a gentle rinse. I grow organic, so no worries about anything more than dust on my harvests.
Stuff the leaves in a glass pitcher, then add 1 cup of sugar. Yes, it’s a lot, but it’s for an entire pitcher’s worth of syrup, not one serving.
I like to bruise/mash the leaves and stir them with the sugar while I’m waiting for the water to boil. It helps to release the oils in the leaves.
Add in a couple cups of boiling water and stir until sugar is dissolved. The water needs to be very hot to release the oils. You want to get as much out of those leaves as possible.
Toss in your tea bags after the sugar is dissolved. I used 4 bags of white tea, but green works nicely as well. Just what you have on hand. Let brew for half an hour or so, stirring every once in a while. Because both the white tea and the mints are low in acid (the mint actually helps calm stomachs), there isn’t really a need to add any baking soda to this particular tea despite the extended brewing.
Strain the leaves and bags from the syrup and refrigerate. Dilute to preferred level of sweetness as you serve.