I don’t think my love for medicinal herbs is any secret. Over the last few weeks, the majority of the blogs I wrote have highlighted the medicinal benefits of many different herbs you can find on the farm. This is mostly because I really believe in the power of food as medicine and I love being able to share any information that helps to highlight their benefits. Personally, I love having shelves filled with jars of dried herbs in my kitchen. I feel like I can solve just about any type of body ailment with the right blend of herbs, especially come cold and flu season. I love to use my herbs for fresh iced teas in the summer and for tasty warm teas in the cooler months. One of my favorite ways to store and use herbs for their medicinal properties is by drying them and then making them into a tea.
A food dehydrator is one great method for drying herbs for tea. However, this option may be quite pricey. Luckily, there’s always the free option of hanging your herbs upside down to air dry. (And as a side note, I personally really enjoy seeing all my herbs hanging to dry in my kitchen.) If you’re air-drying your herbs, make sure to space them far enough apart to get plenty of air circulation between them. I usually use a cotton twine to wrap around my herb bundle and then to tie upside down and hang from any nail, hook, or even cabinet knob nearby to dry. This may take anywhere from 5 to 10 days. The drying process helps force all the flavor oils from the plant stems to concentrate into the leaves, making the best possible cup of tea! You’ll know they’re ready if the leaves can crumble between your fingers easily. You’ll want to be totally sure that the leaves are completely dry before you store them or they may potentially end up molding. Once dry, store them in an airtight container. I use my old, cleaned out Woodside Farms pasta sauce jars! You can also use this method with just about any fresh herbs you don’t think you can consume in time before they go bad. I seem to always have holy basil hanging around the house, ready to be jarred. Drying several different types of herbs will give you your own little herbal apothecary ready for whatever cold season will throw at you!
Say you don’t have the time on your side to wait for the herbs to dry naturally or by dehydrator. You’re in luck! Fresh herbs can also be used to make a delicious cup of tea. The best way to do this is to bruise the leaves you want to use in your tea with a mortar and pestle. Then, scoop out a healthy tablespoon (or two, depending on how large of a cup of tea you want to make) and pour hot water over them. You should allow the leaves to steep covered for about 5 - 10 minutes to get to the full flavor of the herbs.
Warm herbal teas are my favorite way to warm up in the cooler months. I usually make a large pot every day and drink from it all day, and adding a little local honey makes it feel like an extra special treat in the moment. Herbal teas are just one way to enjoy the medicinal benefits of fresh herbs, but there are so many other ways too ranging from syrups, tonics, salves, essential oils, and on and on. What’s your favorite way to use herbs?