Thursday, June 17, 2010

How to make your own Herbal Tea

Strictly speaking, herbal “teas” are actually called “tisanes” or “infusions”, while real tea is made from the leaves of the tea plant. Even so, the term herbal tea is now widely used for the dozens of varieties on the market. It’s easy to make your own from fresh herb leaves picked from the garden for a special treat!

My favorite herb tea is mint, but some varieties are tastier than others. I use the English mint I grow in my backyard, which has a full mint flavor with no off notes. For a good mint tea, pick about a half-cup of leaves, packed, then bruise them on a cutting board. Place in a warmed teapot, add two pints of boiling water, and steep for about five minutes. Strain and serve…then enjoy! Apple mint is delicious, too, as is peppermint.

Use the same method with catnip (yes, catnip!), chamomile flowers, sage, dill (double the amount of leaves), Echinacea, lavender, thyme or rosemary (half the amount of leaves). You can also use an herb to flavor regular tea, especially green tea, for a delightful drink. Earl Grey tea is flavored with bergamot fruit rind to give its distinctive taste.
Lemony herbs, such as lemon verbena, make good teas by themselves or with other herbs. Lemon verbena with mint is a nice combination. If you use St. John’s wort, add about a tablespoon of thyme for a much better taste. With this and other herbal teas, the best sweetener is a good honey, which sweetens without masking the taste of the tea.

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Growing Great Melons!

Sweet, juicy and easy to grow, nothing says “summer” like a ripe melon!
On a hot summer day, few things quench your thirst and inspire fond memories like feasting on a slice of succulent red watermelon. Try growing watermelon, cantaloupe, or honeydew melon, and you can relive those wonderful memories and at the same time spare your wallet and your taste buds from bland, expensive supermarket produce.

Here are a few tips on how to grow some great melons:
A sun-loving crop, melons need protection from cool spring and fall winds, proper air circulation, and space, whether it’s up a sturdy lean-to trellis or spread out in a 4’ by 4’ area. Melons prefer light, sandy, loamy oil that’s packed full of organic matter and nutrients. Cantaloupes and other melons require a pH of 6-7.5, but watermelons can take a pH as low as 5.5. A warm-weather crop, melons prefer soil temperatures of at least 70°F and ambient air temperatures of 50-55°F. If this sounds too warm for gardeners in cooler climates, don’t worry: There are other compact cool-season cultivars that will grow just fine.