“Tea is always a good idea.” – Author unknown

Come a little closer … Shhh … Don’t tell anyone but …

I drink waaaaaaay too much tea.

If you work at Glenwood Gardens with me, you know I leave mugs of the stuff laying around everywhere. I make it in the morning as I clock in, get caught up with the day’s work, and then find it cold at lunch time. But I’m not here to talk about cold tea; I‘m here to talk about the tea that is growing right out in your own backyard!

I’ve always loved the idea of growing and foraging for your own food, the independence that that gives you. But here is my quick word of warning: Whenever you eat or drink something that you find in the woods or backyard, make sure first, it really is what you think it is and it isn’t diseased. Secondly, it hasn’t been sprayed with anything you wouldn’t want to eat, and thirdly, you prepare it properly. When in doubt, throw it out. Lastly, teas can affect you if you have preexisting medical conditions or if you are pregnant or breastfeeding. So always do your research, and don’t just take my word for it.

Now if you are expecting actual tea (Camellia sinensis) in this tea blend, then I’m sorry, you’re out of luck. This blend is an herbal tea (herbal teas are made from edible plants other than Camellia sinensis) using what grows naturally in Ohio or what you might have in your flower bed.

OK, so with that little PSA out of the way, let’s get brewing, shall we?

Purple coneflower
Purple coneflower is a native wildflower.

The first plant I wish to highlight is one that has been gaining popularity for its immunity-boosting potential. This is of course Echinacea, or Coneflower. Yes, that ubiquitous purple flower that dots many a meadow or flower bed (and all over the Butterfly Garden in Highfield Discovery Garden) is a cold- and flu-fighting champion extraordinaire! All parts of the plant are edible, but most people use the flowers and leaves for their teas. They can be fresh or dried, but by themselves, they don’t really taste all that good, so let’s continue to add to our blend, shall we?

The light pinkish-purple wild bergamot flower.
It’s like a colorful party favor explosion!

The next plant on our foraging list is wild bergamot, but you may know it as Bee-balm. Bee-balm’s flowers, to me, always look like those noise makers that they give out at parties, and just like the party favors, come in many colors as well. In the Highfield Discovery Garden, you can find them in Grandma’s Scent Garden growing among other members of its family, the mints. Mints are often used for upset stomachs or other digestive issues. (Which, fun fact, is why restaurants offer after dinner mints.) You can use the flowers or the leaves for your blend, but the leaves give a much stronger minty flavor. They can be used either fresh or dried.

Roses grow along a brick wall.
Roses are not always red though … [“Climbing Roses” by davydubbit via Flickr (CC BY-NC-SA 2.0)]

Roses are red, violets are blue and the last plants on our list are exactly these two! The rose grows up the walls of the Butterfly Garden, guarding the way to the meadow where many a happy violet pushes up through the grass to greet the sun. Roses and violets have been eaten or steeped in teas for centuries. Roses are rich in antioxidants and have been said to be anti-inflammatory and even fight cancer! Violets are high in Vitamin C and are said to boost mood and aid sleep. For teas, use rose petals at any point of their growth, either fresh or dried. For violets, you can use both leaves and flowers, either fresh or dried.

Violets: Nature’s multivitamin.

I love drinking tea. It’s warm and comforting, and there is just something soothing about watching the water color and darken as the steam slowly rises from the mug.

But I drink waaaaaaay to much tea.

Then when I consider all the health benefits in my little herbal blend and all the fun I had making it, maybe … just maybe … I could drink waaaaaaay more.

Allyson Ernst
Nature Interpreter, Glenwood Gardens