Don't be afraid to try out and experiment with combinations. However, do not use any plants that have been sprayed with pesticides, and never harvest anything you find growing along the roadside. Be careful to avoid poisonous greens, such as the leaves of tomato or potato plants. (The U.S. Army maintains a comprehensive website of poisonous plants, chppm-www.apgea.army.mil/ento/plant.htm.)
The beauty of your garden tea is that you can vary it by changing the combination of kitchen herbs, ornamentals, and weeds that you pick. No matter what the recipe, though, you'll feel good, literally, after drinking what you've made.
A healthy mixture makes healthful tea
For the best results, you want your tea to consist of three kinds of ingredients:
- Healthy greens For a full-bodied flavor, you might try steeping a combination of dandelion leaves, watercress, parsley, and birch leaves.
- Beautiful blooms Consider using a colorful mixture of rose petals, dandelion blossoms, pansies, and violets for good taste and appearance.
- Noble fragrances Combine chives, thyme, rosemary, marjoram, verbena, oregano, and mint with flowers such as lemon blossoms and lilac.
Steeping your herb tea
Put a fat handful of the plants you gathered in a big pot or sparkling clean coffee press free of all oils, and pour boiling water over them. Consider using dandelion greens and flowers for about half of the handful (resulting in a slightly bitter taste, but great for digestion; or use blackberry or raspberry leaves in bulk for a sweeter taste). Divide the rest of your tea fairly equally among plants listed in the categories above without any single ingredient dominating.
Use a glass pot; this allows you to see the green beauty of your herbs. Let them steep for a few minutes. Keep them warm on a warmer and enjoy your tea all day long. There is enough flavor left in the plants for at least one additional steeping.
Plants that are safe to eat-and drink
Edible (and drinkable) flowers
Alliums (flowers and young shoots), bee balm, carnations, hibiscus blossoms, hollyhock, honeysuckle flowers (the berries are highly poisonous), Johnny-jump-ups (flowers and leaves), lavender (blossoms and leaves), nasturtiums (flowers, buds, leaves, seedpods), pansies (flowers and leaves), roses (petals, leaves, and rose hips), violets (flowers and leaves)
Edible (and drinkable) kitchen herbs
Basil, chamomile flowers, chives, dill, lemon balm, marjoram, mint, oregano, parsley, peppermint and other mints, rosemary, sage, thyme, verbena
Edible (and drinkable) bushes and trees
Birch leaves (especially when young), blackberry leaves, citrus blossoms (lemon, orange, grapefruit, etc.), elderberry flowers and ripe berries (the leaves and unripe berries are poisonous), gardenia, hibiscus flowers, honeysuckle flowers, pine needles (white and black), raspberry leaves
Edible (and drinkable) weeds
Chickweed, chicory (flowers and buds), dandelions (flowers and leaves), goldenrod, good King Henry, kudzu, lamb's quarters, plantain (or white man's footsteps, as the Native Americans called them), purslane, stinging nettle