In the Garden:
Northern California Coastal & Inland Valleys
August, 2005
Regional Report

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Use your imagination when planting your tea garden. A tea cup and saucer glued to a stake will announce your intent to the world.

Tea Garden

I attended a dinner party at my friend Jean's house on Saturday, and after dinner she offered coffee to her guests. Not wanting the sleepless night that coffee brings to me, but remembering that she had a lovely patch of peppermint in her front yard, I slipped out the front door and pinched a few tips of the vigorous plant. While a mug of water was heating in the microwave, my curious friends were asking what was I planning to do with the bright green mint leaves.

"If you have never tasted peppermint tea fresh from the garden, you are in for a surprise," I said. Once the water had boiled, I added the leaves and while we watched, the tea turned bright green in the cup. "Ooohs" and "Ahhhs" were followed by a rush to the front door. Soon the whole party was gathered outside collecting their own peppermint tips for tea.

Herbs for Tea
There are many varieties of mint available at nurseries, including chocolate-flavored mint, pineapple mint, apple mint, and lemon mint. All mint plants can become pests if allowed to get out of control. How lucky that they are so delicious, you can drink them into submission.

Flavored mint isn't the only plant you can grow in your own garden for tea. Chamomile is a docile plant and very easy to grow in well drained soil. Its low-growing tendency makes it a tidy ground cover. Be advised that chamomile flowers left too long on the plant become very bitter. Use only the tender, new buds for brewing.

Fresh Italian parsley can be brewed into a tea that is an excellent compliment for meat dishes. It is brewed exactly the same as you would any fresh tea; place 1 to 2 tablespoons of fresh leaves in a tea ball or strainer and add to water that has been brought up to a boil. Allow to steep for a few minutes, depending on desired strength, then remove the tea ball and enjoy.

Lemon thyme makes a refreshing tea that can be enjoyed either hot or cold. Add a touch of honey for a surprising taste treat. Thyme and peppermint tea are both excellent digestive aids.

Now we come to the fun part; planting your tea garden. Of course it must have a tea theme, perhaps with a tea table set up, complete with tablecloth and tea service -- nothing fancy, some secondhand pieces from the Goodwill store are perfect. Mismatched tea saucers would make a creative border to a mint bed. You could plant something colorful in a cracked tea pot that is no longer fit for duty. It could be like the Mad Hatter's Tea Party! Imagine how fabulous it would be to serve your own peppermint/ginger tea only inches away from where the plants are growing!


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