Scented Geranium Tea

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I’ve got herbs on my mind at the moment as it’s all go in the new Herb Garden. The last few months have been mainly all about Project Cut Flower but last weekend Mr Fig surprised me by striding out through the Cut Flowers into the “Herb Garden To Be” wielding weed matting, pins and muttering about string and straight lines. Looks like my hints at cultivating another bit of the paddock had worked. I was Chief Tape Measure Holder…….and look at what we achieved!

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Not very pretty yet but at least it’s now a properly marked out area so I can hone my design a bit. I find that plans that look good in my head look totally different when I actually stand in the space I’m working on.  I have re-jigged my design again and again; each time making it more simple. The centre will be a small circular Chamomile Lawn and the hard landscaping will be pavers and gravel with little herbs tucked here and there in between. The L shaped beds round the sides will be packed with a mix of herbs – not many culinary ones though as I keep these nearer the house. There will also be 4 small square beds in symetrical pattern around the lawn. Not much to do then……!

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One of my more exciting new leafy additions will be scented geraniums (pelargoniums). I’ve been accumulating quite a collection. I have to admit that the flower isn’t anything special but the leaves are quite extra ordinary. Gently rub the leaf and sniff…..

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……..chocolate? Really? Try another and you might smell mint. I’ve also got orange, rose and anise.

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I find geraniums really easy to grow.  You don’t need to fuss too much about watering but apparently they do need a bit of shade and, being a tender annual, they are frost tender. It’s a good idea to take little cuttings and pot them up in the greenhouse or sunny windowsill over winter just in case the frost gets to your prized plants outside in the cold. Geraniums are very obliging plants and are obviously geneticlly engineered to multiply so taking cuttings is a cinch. Just snip off a stem and pop it into a pot of compost. It’ll happily put down roots and, with a bit of warmth in Spring, it will grow surprisingly quickly into an established plant.

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So why the new obsession with scented geraniums? Well, I’m quite partial to  scented geranium tea. It’s so easy to make and you can choose from a huge array of flavours or even go mad and combine a few for the ultimate Scented Geranium Tea Experience! I like mixing Perky Peppermint with Chocolate. This is what I do…..

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Pick a handful of your chosen geranium leaves. I pick the whole stalk to keep the plant looking tidy. Harvesting leaves for tea is a great way of controlling growth and pruning into shape. Wash the leaves and remove stalk. If the leaves are large tear them up a bit and you can chop up the stalks and add them in too if you like.

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Pop them into a teapot and pour on not-quite-boiled water. Leave to infuse for about 10 minutes.

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There you go it really is as simple as that.  My other favourite is rose scented geranium tea – just like my fav chocolate bar Turkish Delight but healthier 🙂 Of course these teas are great chilled with some ice – especially the lemon flavoured one. Or you can even pick a small posy, tie it together and hang over the bath tap. As the water runs through the leaves it will infuse the water with yummy geranium scented loveliness. What a plant!

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Lemongrass tea

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I recently wrote about my Giant Lemongrass plant that was a giant in every way apart from it’s roots. I contacted Kings Seeds (from whom I bought the seeds) who assured me that it’s roots would fatten up in the next growing year. So, ho hum….what to do in the meantime….! Well, there is a very delicious tea to be made from Lemongrass leaves which is so easy. Now, I’m pretty new to herbal teas. I have tried many over the years and am always disappointed. They always look so promising but the taste is often a million miles away from what it’s supposed to be. The only herbal tea I drink regularly is mint tea which I love. However, with my new found interest in growing herbs and my intent for making a Tea Garden bed I’ve decided to give real herbal teas a try so these posts will follow me on a tea venture to see if I can find some really easy to grow teas that are also Good For You.

Lemon Grass (Cymbopogon citratus) is probably one of the easiest teas you can make. The hardest thing might be finding Lemongrass in the first place. However, if you can get hold of some seeds it’s a cinch to grow. It’s a half hardy perennial grass that is evergreen in warmer climates. It can grow up to to 1 metre in height. It’s leaves are a grey/green colour up to 90cm long and it has beige/white roots that take two years to fatten up (as I’ve found out).

To Sow : In Spring sow the seeds into trays and cover at a temperature of 20 c. Once seedlings sprout, pot on to a larger container if in a cold climate or straight outside for warmer climates. After a year the plant will have developed enough of a mature crown from which to take cuttings. Simply remove some stems from the crown, cut the stem back to 10cm and place in a pot filled with seed compost. Keep it in a warm, sunny spot and pot on once roots have formed.

Division: You can divide Lemongrass but I’d do it fast! After one years growth my lemongrass plant is huge and would require two fearless gardeners to divide it. Insert two garden forks back to back into the roots and gently pull apart. Plant up immediately into prepared site. If your Lemongrass is in a pot simply use your hands or two handforks to separate the plant in two.

Pets and diseases : The rain and the cold are enemies of Lemongrass and can cause rot and mildew. If your Lemongrass is inside over winter keep the soil fairly dry and well away form frost. In autumn it’s also a good idea to give your Lemongrass a haircut to prevent disease and keep it looking sharp. In Spring cut back any dead growth and thick stalks to 10cm.

How to use Lemongrass: Both the leaf and the stem can be used for cooking and medicinal purposes. When used in Asian style dishes, lemongrass imparts a uniquely lemony taste to the dish. The Lemon scent comes from the chemical Citral found in the leaves. This chemical is often used in perfumes, soaps and insect repellents. As for the health benefits….well, are you sitting comfortably? Then I’ll begin….

Lemongrass is also known as Fevergrass and has been used medicinally as a way of reducing fever and pain for centuries. It is anti-fungal and anti-bacterial so is useful for gastro-instestinal problems and can also be applied to wounds to kill germs. One of the most exciting magical qualities about Lemongrass is it’s antioxidant properties which help the body to remove toxins speedily. This is a Wonder Herb to all those who subscribe to de-toxing every now and then. It also has anti depressant qualities and can be beneficial for nervous and  stress related issues.  It’s high in Vitamin A so great for clear skin, bright eyes and bushy tails and….it may control excess sweating. Well, who knew? Phew! What a little wonder grass and its growing in my garden!

To make Lemongrass Tea using fresh Lemongrass:

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Take 2 lemongrass leaves

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and carefully snip them up into little bits.

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I was lucky enough to be given this rather flash tea infusion set by a lovely garden mad friend of mine. If you live in the UK you can buy them from Sarah Raven. It’s a fabulous way to make tea with fresh leaves. If you’re using smaller dried herbs like chamomile you might find some plant “bits” escape through the holes into your tea. You could of course use a teapot or strain the leaf debris afterwards with a tea strainer.

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Pour in enough freshly boiled water to cover the herb and leave to infuse for 15 minutes.

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It goes a pretty, light lemony colour after 15 minutes of weaving it’s magic.

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This is the first time I’ve ever had Lemongrass tea and I’m drinking it now as I type. It’s refreshing, light, lemony and has a lovely lemon aftertaste. It’s not acidic at all though; very softly lemony. Sometimes I’ve found herbal teabags to leave a bitter aftertaste but this is a delight to drink; no acrid aftertaste at all. I’m already planning on chilling it and adding borage flower ice cubes in the summer. Who cares if I haven’t got plump lemongrass roots when I have the leaves to make tea!

PS Thank you so much Garden Mad Friend for the tea infusion set – it really is fabulous and I think you’ll see it crop up in a few more of these Tea Posts now I have a season of herb growing behind me 🙂