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):
1/2 c honey
1/2 c water
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
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.
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.
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.
This Recipe for Lemon-Mint Sun Tea was Originally Published on The Gardener’s Eden in August 2009
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