Making a Lemony, Minty Iced Tea

apple mint
This is a pretty and beautifully aromatic mint.

This spring, I bought some apple-mint plants at Ecogardens in Northfield. This is one of the prettiest mints I’ve grown and the flavor adds so much zest to beverages. Much of this summer I have been “mojito-ing” my iced teas, by muddling the apple-mint with sugar and then adding some lime juice. It’s an instant pickup in the middle of the day.

Sunday, I decided to try something different, making a minty iced tea with hints of passionflower and ginger. It’s incredibly easy to do and provides a great excuse to drink iced tea out of a mason jar.

lemon mint passion tea
The color is wonderful, but it tastes even better.

For the tea, I put three bags of Tazo passion tea (a passionflower herbal blend) and two bags of Tazo green-ginger tea in a big glass pitcher filled with water. (It holds about 10 cups of water.) I set this aside overnight to let the flavors seep into the water. I’ve been doing cold-brews of iced tea since I had a batch that got a bit too bitter from a hot brew. (Apparently hot water can scorch the leaves, especially the herbals.)

Then, I made a light simple syrup mixture of 1/4 cup of sugar with 1/2 cup of water. Mix the water and sugar and bring it to a boil. Then into the syrup, I added the zest of two small, organic lemons and about 6 mint leaves. Let this marinate for at least 20 minutes. Drain out the leaves and add the syrup to the tea along with the juice of the two small lemons. Delicious! This is a refreshing herbal tea and not too sweet.

If you like your tea sweeter, go to a 1-to-1 simple syrup mixture (1/2 cup sugar to 1/2 cup water).

What’s your favorite herb beverage?

Thai Basil NonPesto

Thai basil ready to useThis year I planted three kinds of basil: the sweet Genovese that is typically used for making pesto and seasoning Italian food, Thai basil and lemon basil. A week or so ago, I picked all three and made a pesto with them for pasta.

It was …. disappointing.

As I learned, Thai basil probably should not be substituted for sweet basil leaf for leaf. Its flavor is stronger, more minty. It  is, as one blog described it, the “spicier, sexier” basil. The plants themselves are gorgeous, with purple stems and a purple flower. But I hate to not use the leaves, so I did some searching around the internet for a way to preserve Thai basil. There were not a lot of recipes, but the ones I liked best used the leaves to make an Asian-inspired pesto-like condiment.

Thai Basil NonPesto

Here’s what I ended up doing: I put 3 cups of leaves in the food processor along with about 2/3 cup peanuts, the juice and zest of two limes, some salt and five big cloves of garlic. If I would have had them handy, I would have added a a couple of hot peppers. I also added a tablespoon or so of water just to get it all congealing nicely. I processed it into a paste, then divided it among four sandwhich bags, which I flattened for easy storage and froze. (I also marked the bags carefully to make sure the pesto and the nonpesto do not get mixed up.) The flavor of the nonpesto was bright and zippy.  I can see adding this to a steaming bowl of Asian soup or a noodle dish with shrimp and vegetables.

I’m still figuring what to do with my lemon basil. How do you treat these unusual herbs?

Lavender Blooms in December

French lavender blooming indoors in December.

I was really hoping this would happen when I brought in a French lavender (Lanvendula dentata) plant from outside in November. Because of the extended Indian summer we had — which now seems decades ago due to the relentless snow of the past week — this plant survived longer than expected. But, as happens with lavender, which is more suited to USDA Zone 9 than zone 4,  it did not bloom.

So, I brought it in, changed the pot, gave it a small dose of fish emulsion, and put it in the sunniest spot I have, on the counter behind my kitchen sink. It is no doubt getting considerably less sun than a heat lover like lavender would prefer, but I’m hoping to nurse it through the winter and then move the plant outdoors again. According to this herb site, French lavender does better indoors than other lavenders. It doesn’t like a lot of water so I will let it dry out between waterings. It also likes lime in its soil, so I may add some crushed egg shells from time to time.

I love the scent of lavender, which is said to have calming properties. Just run your hand over the foliage and sniff. Instant zen.