Growing Awareness - it's tea time!
Welcome to the latest news-post with our Head Gardener Bryony Middleton
Harvest, Feasts and the Making of Tea
We are in the full swing of harvest time, yet again doubling the amount of produce grown here, compared to last year! It’s amazing just how much we can produce in the relatively small space of the Walled Garden.
We are ever grateful to our Tuesday volunteers who come rain or shine to help us in the gardens here and to celebrate this we spent a summer Tuesday, not weeding or planting, but harvesting produce from the garden together and cooking up a delicious feast.
Our menu was Courgette and Coriander fritters which totally stole the show, Beetroot ‘Carpaccio’, Cucumber and Mint Raita, Tomato and Basil Salad with herby Salsa Verde, Spicy Potato wedges and Garden Mixed Leaf salad. See all the photos below
Ahhh time for a nice cup of tea...
Now, although I am partial to a cup of black tea, one of my personal interests is growing herbs and foraging plants for both culinary and medicinal use.
It feels very nourishing and resilient to grow plants that are not only nutritious but also have benefit for the mind, body and soul. Teas that can be used for pure enjoyment or comfort as well as being a first point of call for minor ailments: a home-grown first aid kit.
I drink mint tea for digestion, nettle for strength and iron, sage for sore throats, rose for a heartwarming hug and rosemary tea to awaken the mind and provide a zing of energy.
Last year we started growing, foraging and drying a variety of delicious herbs to offer as herbal tea. This marked the beginning of our fledgling herb tea-growing project in the gardens, so we can source as many ingredients as possible on our doorstep, and reduce food miles and packaging.
Herb teas have traditionally been used to aid health and emotional and physical well-being and we find ours are really enjoyed by retreatants who come here, to supplement the inner work on retreat and connect to the land.
Personally, wherever possible, I like to make fresh herbal tea from plants that are growing seasonally as I believe the plants growing provide the nutrients and benefits that our bodies need at that time.
For example in the Spring are iron-boosting nettles or cleansing cleavers for a detox after the heavier Winter eating.
However it is also convenient to have a stock of dried herbs that we can use anytime and provide for Winter months when there is a less varied supply of fresh herbs and forage.
This year herbs we have dried include Nettles, Cleavers, Hawthorn Blossom, Lemon Balm, Lemon Verbena, Chocolate Mint, Spearmint, Elderflower, Blue Mallow, Calendula and Sage. In the autumn we will add Hawthorn berries and elderberries, maybe even some dried apple for sweetness.
We harvest all our tea ingredients on a dry sunny day: scented herbs are at their strongest just before flowering when they have the highest amounts of volatile oils.
We use a dehydrator to dry them, but essentially you need an area that is dry, out of direct sunlight, with airflow to stop them moulding and possibly a bit of heat, ideally no more than 40 degrees.
When they are crisp with no residual moisture, pop them in a jar and they are ready to use.
To make a Herb Tea Infusion:
For each cup, put 1 heaped teaspoon of herb in a tea strainer or teapot, pour over hot water and steep for 7 minutes before drinking. Feel free to use the herbs individually, or mix your own combination.
LEMON VERBENA: 'lifts your spirits'
Mood-lifting, relaxing, carminative, anti-inflammatory, digestive, fever reducing, clears urinary tract and may help reduce menstrual pains.
BLUE MALLOW: ‘the subtle soother’
Used traditionally as a herbal remedy for asthma, coughs, throat infections. Boosts the immune system, reduces inflammation and relieves pain. The dried flowers give the tea a lovely azure tint.
CHOCOLATE MINT: ‘the ultimate digestive’
Warming and cooling, peppery and pungent with a hint of chocolate, increases circulation and blood flow to the brain to induce inspiration and concentration, aids digestion, calms wind and sweetens breath odour.
SAGE: 'herb of immunity and immortality(!)’
Anti-microbial, good for sore throat and colds, digestive, rejuvenative, antiviral, general tonic, good for nervous tension, antidepressant
CALENDULA: ‘the sunkissed healer’
Antiseptic, enhances immunity and helps the body fight viral infection, detoxifying, relieves irritation and inflammation in digestive tract and aids nutrient absorption. Improves blood and lymphatic circulation.
Find out more about Sharpham's gardens here