The tea industry has declared June “National Iced Tea Month.” Savorist Jacqueline Soule – on her site Gardening With Soule – discussed growing some native plants for herbal iced teas. Now, let’s look at using those natives plus other tasty Southwestern plants to forage (or landscape with) and use for herbal iced tea.
Recently on Savor the Southwest we discussed making desert lavender syrup (here). If you like sweet tea, you can use this syrup to sweeten almost any of these herbal iced teas. Or use that recipe with any of these herbs discussed here to create a new flavor syrup. Please – let us know about your creations – in comments below or on our Facebook page! We are working to gather some thank you gifts for our loyal readers.
Desert lavender (Hyptis emoryi) is a silvery shrub with leaves and flowers that offer an intense lavender fragrance and taste. For tea, the earthy perfume aroma and flavor mixes well with other florals like rose petals or mint leaves. It will overwhelm the delicate flavor of ocotillo blooms. Lacking the native desert lavender, you can use cultivated lavender.
Ocotillo and all its sibling species (including the boojum tree) are members of the unique “coachwhip family.” This family of plants is found only on a tiny portion of the globe – here in the Sonoran Desert and in Baja California. The blooms of all members of the family are edible. To harvest the flowers, spread sheets under the plant and allow the blooms to fall. Flowers have a delicate flavor, mildly tangy and mildly sweet.
For best basil leaf production you are supposed to nip off the young flower buds before they develop. Well don’t throw them away! They make a tasty tea, somewhat clove-like. Nice all alone or mixed with some cinnamon. That said, basils do have a range of flavors, depending on variety. Lemon basil is lemony (well duh), Thai basil is strongly clovey, and holy basil can be almost camphor-like.
Poliomintha (Poliomintha incana) has many common names, including rosemary mint. It is a low shrub-like perennial with rich green leaves. Both leaves and flowers offer a tea that is a tangy blend of rosemary and mint – very refreshing and palate cleansing on a hot dusty day.
While lemon grass (Cymbopogon citratus) is not native to the desert, it makes a good addition to your mosquito repelling garden (discussed on Southwest Gardening here). Lemongrass can also be used in barbequing, and Uncle Smokey has some tips coming on this. Lemon grass is popular in many tea blends from the store, and you can add it to your own home blends.
Poreleaf or slender poreleaf (Porophyllum gracile) is a low growing perennial which forms a cloud of bluish-silver foliage and stems. Foliage offers a sharp slightly spruce-like tang with hints of anise. Honestly it’s a taste that’s not for everyone.
There are a number of species of wild roses that live on our desert sky islands, including Rosa woodsii. You can wildcraft the petals, or use roses from your own garden. Rose petals add sweetness to teas, and blend well with ocotillo blooms. If you dried rose petals gently, out of the sunshine, they also contain some vitamin C.
Seven savory herbal iced tea treats to try. We hope you will, and let us know your favorite!
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