Today I was outside in the sun with my new puppy, working in the garden. I was looking at my herbs, thinking of how I will miss them when winter comes. I have enjoyed a nice crop of lemon balm, peppermint, spearmint, lavender, comfrey, yarrow, fennel, echinacea, basil, and such. One of my favorite things to use my lemon balm for is in a hand-rubbed tea. My mom showed this technique to me last year and I have loved it! The flavors are so fresh and bright, and I know it's more therapeutic too.
Hand-Rubbed Lemon Balm Tea
2 handfuls of fresh lemon balm leaves, washed and stripped of stems
purified water (cool to room temp.) to generously cover the leaves in a deep bowl
Other herbs may be used in this manner as well (mint, lemon verbena, rose geranium, lavender, catnip...).
With clean hands, rub the fresh herbs with your fingers while your hands are in the bowl of water.
The idea is to crush the leaves, releasing the aromatic flavor compounds. Do this until the water takes on some of the color of the herb and is very fragrant. You can use it immediately or let it sit a bit if you choose.
Strain the fresh tea into a glass, add ice if desired, and enjoy.
I like to sweeten some of my teas with a bit of stevia glycerite (Now brand makes a nice one, and can be found at most health food stores).
For those of you who do not know what stevia is, it is a plant that has leaves that are sweet (also known as sweet leaf). Compounds of the stevia leaf are concentrated to make a sweetener that is about 200 times sweeter than sugar. I have grown it in my herb garden for years. It winter-kills where I live in Utah, and it is very difficult to germinate from seed, so I buy it from a nursery and plant it in the spring.
I harvest the stevia leaves, dry them and add it to my various herbal tea blends that I make. It naturally sweetens my teas. I love having healthy alternatives to sugar in my home, and my kids like and use stevia too.
I have a lot of dried herbal tea blends that I have formulated, which are very tasty. Some of them were formulated for specific therapeutic purposes, some for pure pleasure, and some for both. A few years ago, I was contemplating marketing some of them as loose leaf teas. But I have not done that. It pleases me that our family has enjoyed them through the years, so my efforts have not been wasted. Perhaps I may share some of my formulas here.
Author: Leila Wood