Tea for Two

Well, the summer continues to be changeable, as far as the weather goes.  Last week, we endured a heat wave, with temperatures above 30 C , or 90 F, every day.  Fortunately, we had received three inches of rain the week before (all at once, of course!), so the ground had some moisture to help the plants cope with the extreme heat.  Yesterday, we were all surprised (and relieved) by the unseasonably cool air, with night time temperatures of 11degrees C, or 50 F.  And so the up and down trend continues….

Regardless, things are coming along.  We’ve been enjoying our delicious tomatoes, as well as the beets, carrots and various lettuces.  The green beans will be ready by the weekend (they were in a bit late this year, with all the spring rains).  The basil loved the heat last week, and has grown in leaps and bounds, so I’ll be starting up my pesto production soon.

dehyrator3

Parsley and sage

dehydrator1This year, part of my winter preserves will be done with my new solar dehydrator.  Encouraged by friends who built their own, I found some plans online, and my nephew built one for me, using mainly recycled material from the farm.  It turned out a bit bigger than I had planned, as he modified a few things, but it’s on wheels and can be moved in and out of the garage, as required.  The principle is fairly basic:  the air in the glass-covered chamber gets heated by the sun, and naturally rises up into the box, where I have about a dozen drying trays.  The air passes through, drying on it’s way, and exits up through the top of the box.  It might not look as fancy as our electric Excalibur dehydrator, but it doesn’t cost anything to run, and it gets the job done beautifully.

dehydrator2

Air enters the chamber, gets nice and hot in the black pipes, and continues into the drying box

The first thing I tried drying were some simple herbs, parsley (both curly and Italian) and sage.  Both dried fairly quickly, within a day.  I really liked the way the colour was preserved so well, the parsley is still a nice fresh green!

parsleygarden

The curly parsley, in the greenhouse

dryparsley

Dried by the end of the day, still nice and green!

Encouraged by my first successes, I loaded up the dehydrator a few more times.  I did some trays of lemon balm, and several of raspberry leaves.

lemonbalm

Lemon Balm

For those of you who aren’t familiar with lemon balm, it grows quite easily, and spreads very quickly.  Some people may even call it a weed…   I started out with a plant or two about 5 years ago, and have several patches now.  This year is the first year I will actually be using it – it’s mild lemony, minty taste will make a delicious tea for us to enjoy.  As well, it can be useful with cold symptoms, is good for soothing an upset stomach, and can lift your spirits.

I have enjoyed sage tea for a few years now, thanks to a good friend who introduced me to it.  You can certainly use the leaves fresh now, in the summer, but drying them will allow us to enjoy it’s minty, savoury flavour all winter.  As well as being tasty, it has many benefits including being a mood booster, and anti-inflammatory.

Raspberry leaves are something I would never have considered drying, if it weren’t for a neighbour who uses them in teas.  After doing a bit of research, I learned that it is quite high in magnesium, and Vitamin C, and can even be used topically to soothe sunburn and rashes.  It’s nice to know that we can enjoy the berries AND the leaves!

Ralph and I enjoy our breakfast pot of tea, usually a green tea, or other herbal blend.  It will be great to enjoy our own locally grown tea blends, even if they are not the conventional “Camellia sinensis”, or black tea.  I will keep the dehydrator busy for the next few weeks, making tea when the sun shines!

DSCN9454

From left to right: Sage, Lemon Balm, Raspberry Leaf, Lemon Balm, Linden Blossoms

 

P.S.  I forgot to include an interesting story.  Years ago, I knew an incredible beekeeper, who was quite a naturalist and a very spry octagenarian, who didn’t look a day over 65 or so.  Anyhow, he told me that all summer long, he gathered leaves from all the different plants (ie. weeds) around his home and dried them.  In the winter, he would steep them and drink them as a tea.  He told me that they all took up nutrients from his organically maintained farm and he was getting a good cross-section of all the different nutrients and vitamins by making a blend.  Perhaps part of the reason for his youthful vitality!

 

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2 responses to this post.

  1. Posted by Pauline Faul on July 25, 2013 at 4:01 pm

    Julie : You are a gift from mother earth. She loves you…A
    Story teller as you watch your plants grow. When I read the stories…I see your smiling face. Pauline

    Reply

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