Plus a Sweet Lemon Herb Tea Recipe!
When the first threat of frost is coming in the fall, there are a few herbs in the garden I keep a close watch on. Tender herbs need harvesting before the temperature hits freezing and damages the plants. Keep watch on basil, lemon verbena, stevia, lemongrass, calendula, borage, dill, cilantro and other tender plants. Depending on your winter weather, you might need to harvest chives, thyme, mint and parsley before they go dormant.
Here is a trio of herbs I harvested a few weeks ago and are now ready for storage and blending.
Lemon Grass (Cymbopogon citratus) I love the earthy and subtle lemon grass flavor in warm tea. My potted lemongrass has done well, and it thick and lush. Making a mental note to repot it and divide it next year, I brought the potted plant in the house last night because temps were expected to drop below freezing. This one will succumb to cold and not come back next season if hit by killing frosts (temperatures at 28 degrees (-2 c.) ). To dry, cut whole leaves, and allow to dry completely. Cut the leaves cut enough to fit in a jar to avoid breaking any further than needed. Once you are ready to use, cut the pieces smaller just before adding to a recipe.
Lemon Verbena (Aloysia citrodora) The fresh leaves are a wonderful fresh lemon scent that lingers nicely in the drying process. Dry and store leaves whole. Break down as needed for use in recipes. I harvested bundles a few weeks ago so I could have a new stash of leaves for winter. The plant has survived outside over the last few winters. Each year I wonder if it will come back again in my USDA zone 8 garden, so far so good. In climates where there are extended periods of cold, it may kill the plant entirely. If you live in an area prone to cold winters, grow it as an annual and harvest everything before a killing frost. The flavor and aroma are so worth it!
Stevia (Stevia rebaudiana) is the sweet leaf plant that keeps its intense sweetness in drying. I harvest it all before cold weather; it is very tender to frost and, once hit, turns black and dies. It doesn’t take many leaves in mixed to add its intense flavor to a mix. I usually start with one or two, depending on the amount of tea blend I am making, and add more if needed. A nice benefit to growing Stevia, freshly harvested and dried leaves do not leave that odd aftertaste found in many processed Stevia products.
Sweet Lemon Herb Tea
1 cup dried lemon verbena leaves
1/4 cup dried lemongrass cut into ¼ to ½ inch (6 to 12mm) pieces
2 or 3 dried stevia leaves
Mix all ingredients. Lightly crush to blend well. Store in a tightly sealed glass jar or tea tin.
To use: To one cup of hot water (not boiling to the point it burns the leaves), add an overflowing tablespoon of the herb mix. Allow to steep for 15 minutes.
Garnish with a slice of fresh lemon to enhance the lemony goodness.