Keeping Cool with Lemon-Mint Sun Tea

July 8th, 2012 § 3 comments § permalink

Lemon-Mint Sun Tea in the Garden

The dog-days of summer have arrived, and they sure can wear you out! Gardening is hard work, and it’s easy to over do it on a sweltering day. Digging, weeding, lifting and endlessly refilling the watering can are physically demanding tasks. When temperatures rise and the sun is strong, it’s best to take a break in the shade. Throughout the peak of summer —when it’s particularly hot outside— I limit my physical work to the early morning and late afternoon. During the mid-day hours I can usually be found in my breezy dog-trot, designing gardens and researching new plants for fall projects. Retreating to the lake is tempting, but when projects loom and paperwork is piled high, I need to keep my focus. As a motivator, I often make myself an ice cold, mid-day pick-me-up, like this Lemon-Mint Sun Tea, to enjoy at lunchtime …

Sun Tea Brewing on My Terrace

If you’ve never made sun-tea, you are in for a treat! All you need is a sunny day, a clear glass container —gallon size is best— fresh water, black, green or herbal tea sachets (loose tea works in a ball infuser), organic lemons and honey. Variations on the theme are limited only by your imagination. Sun tea can be flavored with a wide variety of herbs, from the lemon verbena and mint used here, to thyme, lavender, rosemary, basil and beyond. Fresh fruit, such as oranges, limes and lemons can all be added to sun tea to enhance the flavor. I often use lemons, since I usually have them on hand and I love their flavor in tea. Early on sunny mornings, I gather fresh herbs —such as peppermint (Mentha piperita), and lemon verbena (Aloysia citrodora) or lemon balm (Melissa officinalis) — from the garden and mix up a pitcher of my favorite summer-time refreshment, Lemon-Mint Sun Tea. I brew my tea in a clear glass pitcher out on the terrace  —it takes about four hours— and then chill it in the fridge until lunchtime, when I fill a glass with ice cubes and enjoy homemade refreshment throughout the afternoon. The recipe and method are below.

Making sun tea with fresh herbs is one of those simple pleasures I learned in childhood and have enjoyed every summer since. I’ve tried many recipes for sun tea, but this one, with refreshing mint and lemon balm, has become my favorite. Peppermint and lemon balm are easy to grow perennial herbs (in fact members of the mint family can become aggressive in gardens, so be careful where you site them), and they are endlessly useful in the kitchen. I also grow tender lemon verbena (Aloysia citrodora) outdoors in summer, and bring it inside for the winter. Enjoy the warm weather and remember to take it a bit easier when gardening on hot days. Take the time to relax and enjoy the pleasures of a bountiful herb garden. Why not spend your lunch hour kicking back in the shade or strolling through the garden with a cool glass of Lemon-Mint Sun Tea …

The Golden Days of Summer in My Garden: Rudbeckia hirta ‘Becky Mixed’ and Veronica spicata ‘Blue Charm’ Backed Up by Miscanthus sinensis ‘Morning Light’

Lemon-Mint Sun Tea

Ingredients (enough for a gallon sized pitcher of tea):

Syrup:

1/2 c honey

1/2 c water

Tea:

3/4 c peppermint leaves, lightly crushed

1/2 c lemon verbena or lemon balm leaves, lightly crushed

3 – 4  lemons, sliced

5 bags of black tea, (herbal or green are fine if you prefer)

1 gallon size clear glass pitcher and fresh water to fill

Method:

Honey, Lemon and Freshly Harvested Herbs

1) Lightly crush mint and lemon verbena or lemon balm leaves and thinly slice three or four lemons.

2) Toss these ingredients into an empty 1 gallon, clear glass pitcher.

lemon mint tea twolemon mint tea three

3) In a small saucepan, combine 1/2 c honey and 1/2 cup water and bring to a boil over medium high heat while stirring.

4) Remove saucepan from heat and slowly pour the hot syrup into the pitcher, coating the herbs and lemon. Tie 5 tea bags to dangle into the pitcher, or toss the bags straight in. Slowly fill the pitcher with cold water and stir. Set the pitcher outside in the full sun for 2-4 hours or until the water turns a deep honey-gold (I cover mine at the top to keep out insects). Bring the pitcher back inside and remove tea bags and chill in the fridge for 2 or more hours (chill serving glasses for a frosty experience), or until cold. Fill chilled glasses with ice and pour in the sun tea. Garnish with a sprig of mint and/or lemon and serve.

Additional Notes:

Sun tea can be made without sweetener, but I like to add the simple syrup above, made with honey. Pouring the boiling syrup over the crushed herbs and lemons helps to release their oil into the tea, and the fragrance is wonderful! I always muddle the ingredients a bit with a wooden spoon.

Gathering Herbs in the Potager

This Recipe for Lemon-Mint Sun Tea was Originally Published on The Gardener’s Eden in August 2009

Photographs and Text ⓒ 2010-2012 Michaela Medina/The Gardener’s Eden. All images, articles and content on this site (with noted exceptions), are the original, copyrighted property of The Gardener’s Eden and may not be reposted, reproduced or used in any way without prior written consent. Contact information is in the left side bar. Please do not take my photographs without asking first. Thank you! 

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The Beauty of Sunlit Valerian …

July 8th, 2012 § Comments Off on The Beauty of Sunlit Valerian … § permalink

From Garden to Table: Fresh Cut Valerian (Valeriana officinalis)

Dreamy, soft, relaxing; flowering herb valerian (Valeriana officinalis) is every bit as beautiful as it is useful. The botanical name of this medicinal herb comes from the Latin word ‘valere’, meaning to be well. Since the fourth century —and perhaps even earlier— valerian has been used as a medicinal herb to treat a variety of ailments; from anxiety and insomnia to hypertension, eczema and migraine headaches*. Recently, tablets made from the rhizomes and roots of this herb have regained popularity as a natural sedative and anxiolytic (read more here). Oil, extracted from the flowers, has long been used as a food flavoring and fragrance in perfumes…

Valeriana officinalis and Aruncus dioicus Form a Flowering, Semi-Transparent Screen in My Garden

One of the most fragrant of all garden perennials, Valerian (Valeriana officinalis) is a graceful, tall (4-6′), flowering plant (USDA zones 4-9), which can be grown as an herb, ornamental, or both. Stately yet ethereal, Valerian blooms from July through August, and can be used in mass plantings to create a light, summery screen between garden rooms; an effect I love. Beloved by many bees and butterflies (particularly Tiger Swallowtails), lacy, white valerian flowers have a sweet, musky smell; similar to fragrant heliotrope (Heliotropium arborescens), but with woodsier, mossier notes. It’s one of those fragrances you either love or hate, and I happen to like it very much. I enjoy filling my home with valerian during the summertime; cutting armfuls for mixed bouquets or solo arrangements, like the one featured in the photo at top.

Valerian officinalis, Used as Semi-Transparent Screen at the Edge of My Potager

I have grown Valeriana officinalis in my herb garden for as many years as I’ve been gardening. However, when planting this species, it’s important to exercise caution, as it does self-sow (however, unlike mint, I find it isn’t aggressive, and volunteers can be easily pulled from the ground). It should also be noted that this plant is listed as potentially invasive by a few U.S. states. Normally, I avoid all free-seeding, non-native plants, but I have mixed feelings about the inclusion of this medicinal herb (and other non-native herbs, like mint) on the invasive plant watch list. I have not observed herb valerian crowding out native species in the natural areas where I live. Much like domesticated apple trees (Malus domestica), most earthworms and those delightful, domesticated honeybees (Apis mellifera), herbal valerian (Valeriana officinalis) was introduced to North America by European settlers —themselves invasive, by the way— when they arrived. Three hundred years is long enough, in my humble opinion, to prove that this plant is no Kudzu (Pueraria montana). Many introduced species have benefits that far outweigh their risks, and until proven to be harmful to native species, I will continue to grow herb valerian in my garden.

*Always Check With Your Doctor Before Consuming Any Medicinal Plant or Herbal Medicine!

Photographs and Text ⓒ Michaela Medina/The Gardener’s Eden. All images, articles and content on this site (with noted exceptions), are the original, copyrighted property of The Gardener’s Eden and may not be reposted, reproduced or used in any way without prior written consent. Contact information is in the left side bar. Please do not take my photographs without asking first. Thank you! 

Do you enjoy The Gardener’s Eden? You can help support this site by shopping through affiliate links (including Amazon book links). A small percentage of each sale will be paid to this site, helping to cover web hosting and maintenance costs. Thank you so much for your support!

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