Mountain Valley Growers USDA Certified Organic Herb, Perennial and Vegetable Plants

 
 

THE ZONE 9 TEA HERB GARDEN

 
 

 Lemon Grass, Cardamom,
Kentucky Colonel Mint,
Moujean Tea, Grape Sage, Stevia

 
 

 

Tea is one of the simple pleasures of life, and growing your own tea herbs and learning to blend your own teas is fun and rewarding. While many herbal teas are chosen for their health benefits, these six herbs were chosen for their flavor. That they also happen to be good for you is just one more reason to explore the many facets of tea plants.

Growing your own tea herbs gives you the satisfaction of knowing your brew was grown without chemicals, harvested at the peak of perfection, and preserved with minimal disturbance to the leaf, giving you a perfect cup of tea.

Herb teas can be brewed by pouring pure water brought just to the boil over fresh or dried herbs and letting them steep for between 5 and 20 minutes, or by adding them to a large glass jar filled with pure water and letting the sun do the work of infusing the herbs. The quantity of herbs to use will depend on the herbs and your taste. Start with a tablespoon of dried or two tablespoons of fresh herb per cup and adjust to taste. Use each herb independently at first to become familiar with its flavor. Then try two together and then three and so on. Take notes as you create your herbal masterpieces. The six herbs presented here can be blended with each other to make dozens of different combinations and can be enjoyed hot or iced.

The tea herbs chosen for this garden are hardy enough to return each year in Zone 9 and up, providing years of herbal tea harvests.

 

Lemon Grass: (Cymbopogan Citratus)

 

Lemon Grass is a tall, non-invasive, clumping grass that likes warm summer days, moderate water and plenty of room. Marginally hardy in Zone 8, it can be successfully grown in a large container and divided and replanted when it outgrows its space. The underground thickened stem is prized in Asian cooking for its spicy lemony taste. Often the blades are discarded, but they make a very refreshing and aromatic tea.

Lemon Grass blades can be three or more feet in length.  They are very sharp, so be careful when harvesting to not scratch bare arms. The grass can be used both fresh and dried and is quite flavorful by itself. It adds a welcome twist of lemon to any other herb tea or black tea and is especially good with Oswego Tea's rich flavor. Lemon Grass Sun Tea over ice makes hot summer afternoons tolerable.

 

 
 

Cardamom: (Elletaria cardomomum)

 

Cardamom is one of the 1500 species that belongs to Zingiberaceae, the warm, spicy, fragrant ginger family. Unfortunately, it will not flower and make Cardamom pods in this country.  But, the leaves are highly aromatic and can be used for herb tea.  It also grows well in a container and even makes a decent house plant where light levels are good.

Cardamom leaves are most aromatic when used fresh, but do retain some flavor and fragrance when dried. The fresh leathery leaves should be torn into large pieces before they are placed in the cup or tea pot and they should be allowed to steep for at least 15 minutes. Adding just one leaf to any brew will delicately scent the tea, much the same way Jasmine does.

 

 
 

Kentucky Colonel Mint: (Mentha spicata cv.)

 

Roman Chamomile ready for shipping.

Even though Kentucky Colonel Mint is hardy in Zones 5 to 11, it is the perfect tea for Zone 9 and other hot summer garden areas because it makes the most delightfully cool Iced Teas, Mint Juleps, and Mojitos. Kentucky Colonel Mint is a bright green spearmint with very large heart-shaped leaves. It can be used fresh or dried, either by itself or in combination with other mints.

Because mints can be invasive they should always be grown in wide containers. They like full sun and plenty of water. Cut back to the ground after flowering. For more ways to use Kentucky Colonel Mint to create refreshing drinks (both alcoholic and non-alcoholic) see The Kentucky Mint Julep by Colonel Joe Nickell.

 

 
 

Moujean Tea: (Nashia inaguensis)

 

A relatively unknown plant, Moujean Tea is a native of West Indian scrublands that grows fairly slowly to about three feet. It produces clusters of creamy white flowers that in warmer zones are followed by tiny dimpled orange fruits. Both leaves and fruits are scented of vanilla which is released when the tea is made.

The tiny leaves and fruits may be used fresh or dried. They are quite tough so it is necessary to steep the tea for a longer period of time for fresh use and it is nice to grind or pulverize for dried use.

 

 
 

Grape Scented Sage: (Salvia melissodora)

 

Found growing at higher elevations in the mountains of Mexico, this gorgeous Salvia was once botanically called Salvia Tarahumara after the Tarahumara Indians who use it medicinally. Indeed, this was what first prompted us to experiment with it as a tea over 15 years ago. We used fresh leaves and flower blossoms and brewed up a light green-grape-flavored ambrosia that is good both hot and iced.

 Grape Scented Sage is hardy in Zone 8 and grows to over six feet by six feet. It has survived brief dips as low as 12 degrees. It blooms its bright grape-colored flower during the cooler days of spring and fall, also  providing a great looking, highly aromatic bush during our hot inland summers. Pruning is not necessary unless done for shape. Hummingbirds, beneficial insects, and bees love it as well.

 

 
 

Stevia: (Stevia rebaudiana)

 

It is hard to believe that just a few years ago Stevia was introduced to the US as a plant for home gardens. Rated at Zone 9 or 10, we have had Stevia survive three of our Zone 8 winters with absolutely no protection. It dies back to the ground and returns each year. Stevia is a small plant that prefers full sun and plenty of water.

Roman Chamomile ready for shipping. 

Its sweet leaves may be harvested for fresh use at any time, but for drying, choose the crop that comes in the fall after the flowers have been trimmed off and the plant has regrown. It takes a fair amount of fresh leaves to flavor tea. Start with a half-teaspoon per cup and see if that adds the right sweetness. Dried leaves are more concentrated and can be used at about half the fresh amount.

For more information on Tea,
be sure to read our feature newsletter Cup of Tea, 1 2 3.

 

Additional Plants for the Zone 9 Tea Herb Garden:  Angelica, Hollyhock, Most Mints (no Pennyroyal), Bee Balms, Catnip, Sweet Bay, Basils, Lemon Verbena, Spanish Tarragon, Licorice Mint, Yarrow, Marshmallow, Hops, Hyssop, all Lavandula angustifolias and Lavandula x intermedias, all Salvia officinalis, all Culinary Oreganos, all Rosemarys, Winter and Creeping Winter Savories, Pink Savory, Parsley, Bronze Fennel, Red Clover, Mullein,  Pennsylvania Dutch Tea Thyme, Italian Oregano Thyme, Orange Balsam Thyme, Silver, Lemon Thyme, and English Thyme.

 
Books to read on this subject:

Herbal Teas
by Richard Craze

Tea Time at the Inn
by Gail Greco
(great ideas for tea themes
and tea goodies)

Herbed Wine Cuisine
by Janice Therese Mancuso
(wine infused tea herbs
for cooking)

The Kentucky Mint Julep
by Colonel Joe Nickell

Iced Tea
by Fred Thompson

The Encyclopedia of Herbal Medicine
by Andrew Chevallier
(traditional teas and their medicinal uses)

Two very interesting books on the history of Tea are:

The Book of Coffee and Tea
by Joel, David and Karl Schapira

The Tea Lover's Treasury
by James Norwood Pratt

Save by purchasing our Zone 9 Tea Herb Garden Kit! Receive The Zone 9 Tea Herb Garden Six Pack and the book Herbal Teas for one low price!

Zone 9
Tea Herb Garden


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Zone 9
Tea Herb Garden Kit


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