Iced Tea

by Sandy Swegel

I learned to think outside the box yesterday…outside the tea box that is.  All this summer heat has me drinking lots of iced tea trying to cool down.  I traditionally get my tea from a box.  Boulder tea company Celestial Seasonings makes an awesome variety of herb teas, especially the zingers, that are full of flavor.  Luzianne Tea from the grocery story is my tea of choice for making the Southern Sweet Tea I grew up with. (1 quart of water, 4 black tea bags, 1 c sugar, lemons). But my clever gardening friend Barbara walked me through the garden yesterday, introducing me to a new use for plants I was already growing.

Citrus flavors are the most obvious to use. I had tried some of the lemony herbs before…but anything with lime or lemon in its name is a great choice. I quickly learned to smell the foliage to get an idea if it would be tasty.  If I didn’t have Barbara with me, I might have googled the herb first to make sure it was edible.

For our iced tea party, I made several teas from single ingredients…a lemon verbena tea, a mint tea, and a basil tea.  We then tried the flavors alone and mixed some together.  Teas with a combination of herbs had more interest and depth but my favorite ended up being the lemon verbena with a splash of mint!

Citrus Flavors Lemon Basil, Cinnamon Basil, Lemon Verbena, Lemon Balm, Lemon Grass

Mint flavors Chocolate Mint, Peppermint, Garden variety mint, Monarda fistula (minty with a light citrus tone).

Other herbs Anise, Fennel

Edible flowers I made the Elderflower and Queen Anne’s Lace teas a few weeks back when they were still in young bloom. Elderflowers Queen Anne’s Lace Rose Hips

Extras to add Sweetener: honey, agave, liquid stevia or sugar. Citrus slices: lemons, limes, oranges Ginger slivers Mint sprigs

The basic recipe is about the same for all the teas. We’re making the tea for flavor not for medicinal use so it won’t be as strong as herbal concoctions.  Barbara just puts her herbs in a jar, covers with hot tap water and lets it sit overnight.  I don’t plan ahead as well, so I made simple hot teas and then refrigerated and later filled with ice cubes.

Basic Herbal Iced Tea Recipe 1 T leaves per cup water Boiling water. Steep 5 minutes Strain. I made the teas double strength to compensate for the ice cubes melting.

We set the teas out on the table with honey and sliced lemons and slivers of ginger and let everyone mix and match to find their favorite.

Go forth and experiment!

Seeds in the Garden

by Sandy Swegel

Now that we’re at the peak of summer, you’ll start to notice that you’re likely to have more seeds in the garden than it has flowers.  The heat and long days of summer have stimulated seed formation in most plants and this is a good thing.  Don’t just deadhead the seeds and compost them… there are lots you can do with flowers gone to seed.

Collect the seeds to grow again.

Once seedheads have dried a bit (turned brown) and the seeds are loose, you can collect the seed…either to save in paper envelopes for next year or to spread around the garden now where you’d like them to grow next.  When collecting seeds to grow next year, pick the healthiest plants with the best color. You probably know that some plants are hybrid and don’t necessarily come true from seed…but sometimes they do, so I like to risk it.  This year we let a squash grow in the compost pile even though everybody knows squash don’t come true, but it was cute…and now we’ve been eating great acorn squash a month earlier than the garden’s because the plant didn’t know it wasn’t supposed to be good.

Eat the seeds.

This is especially yummy before the seeds mature when they are still green and tender.  Green herb seeds and cool season vegetable seeds are little flavor powerhouses.  It’s time to nibble on broccoli flowers or herb seeds – cilantro, dill, fennel, anise, even basil.  All the flax in my wildflower patch has gone to seed.  I’m gathering them to sprout and either put on salads or dehydrate into crackers.

Gather the dry seeds for birdseed in winter

Sunflower and flax seeds are some of the seeds that birds like, so I gather extra dry seed to put out in January for the chickadees. I leave most of the seed on the ground for them… but sometimes it’s hard for a tiny bird to find seeds through a foot of snow.  Besides, if I put the seeds in the bird feeder, I (and the cats) get the pleasure of watching through the kitchen window.

Let the seeds be.

You can grow perennial beds of annuals.  There’s a phrase to get your head around.  The plants don’t overwinter but by letting the seeds drop, they replant themselves.  Let the cilantro and dill and parsley and leeks seed themselves around and you never have to start those seeds again.  The little seedlings will produce good plants for you this fall and some will wait for Spring to grow.  I love it when Nature does all the work.