Phew – it’s a warm one this weekend! We haven’t had very many hot days this summer so the warmth is welcome around here. My green tomatoes are crying out for a little heat so they can ripen (okay, they don’t really care – it’s me who’s crying out for it!!)
The herbs in my garden, however, are very happy, towering above my other plants and just waiting to be harvested. As is the case with my lemon verbena pictured here in the photo (its the one towering 5 feet!) I’ve planted lemon verbena for the past 20 or so years, ever since my visits to Sharon Lovejoy’s magical garden shop, Heart’s Ease, where they’d tie up your purchase with a ribbon and a fragrant slip of this herb. That scent is ingrained in my memory forever and I never want to be without it!
However, this herb tends to be gangly and not the most well-behaved in the garden. It doesn’t really spread, it just goes out and up and all over the place. Its leaves are tough and leathery making it unpleasant to eat them raw, so I’ve never really known how best to use this herb.
Luckily one of my favorite clients showed me how to make a wonderful herbal tea using lemon verbena as the main ingredient. Originally from Jerusalem, they told me in their country this tea is considered a staple, lending itself well to modifications with many herbs you may have on hand. I thought I’d share it with you as it’s not only light and delicious but a snap to make:
First, gather large handfuls of lemon verbena and mint.
If you don’t have any mint, make sure you plant some next year as it’s wonderful in SO many recipes! Just make sure you keep it in a container because if you don’t you’ll never get it out of your garden. It’s super aggressive.
My own twist was adding a handful of stevia (pictured in the photo). Stevia is a naturally sweet herb, flavoring the ice tea just like sugar. Honest – try it!
After rinsing your herbs, place them in a medium sized pot filled with water and let it gently simmer for about 10 minutes.
Sometimes I accidentally forget about it and let it simmer longer – it doesn’t ruin the tea, it only makes it stronger. But don’t simmer it too long or it’ll start to taste a little ‘woody’.