What is it about tea that says, “sophisticated” & “pinky up”? It just seems to have that air about it. I personally have not always been a fan of tea. I may lose my Southern card for this one but even the sweet tea just never really did it for me. I do like half and half (lemonade & tea) pretty well as it seems more refreshing and not so syrupy. So if tea is not my thing then why on earth are we crafting our own? In a word – WISDOM!
Wisdom could be defined as the application of knowledge. In this case, even an infant is wise. It comes to understand that if it cries needs will be met. Likewise, we have come to learn that certain herbs are particularly beneficial for our bodies & can easily be ingested in the form of tea. Now tea is not the only way to avail yourself of the wonderful antioxidants and free radical seeking benefits herbs and flowers can provide. Simply cooking with them may be useful as well as tinctures , salves, infusions, etc. We utilize many of these techniques as well. However tea is that soothing warm drink that soothes a sore throat and cools a burning tummy. It just feels good when your are ailing. Tea and healing have become synonymous with each other over the centuries. Likely it is because of the of wholesome nature they can be.
We started using herbal teas years ago at the suggestion of a friend who was also a holistic doctor. She of course recommended her favorite brands but her requirement was that it was organic. We followed her suggestion and as a result many years later tea is our first line of defense when we feel cold or flu symptoms coming on.
At some point we did begin to examine the ingredients closely and realized many of the ingredients could easily be grown right here on our farm. This is why perennial herbs and flowers are so important to us. The healing properties they contain just go on and on! Many can be use prophylactically without any negative effects unlike so many meds we take after the fact which cause a whole list of other issues! We definitely are not knocking pharmaceuticals because we depend on them! However, if we can avoid using them – WE DO!
Now that you know why we decided to get into growing teas and crafting them we would like to briefly explain the work that goes into each bag of tea that you purchase from Bain Home Gardens.
When it comes to our apothecary garden, we want every crop that can be used medicinally growing on our farm but that is wishful thinking and quite frankly impossible! We farm a very small space so we have to be very selective about what we chose to plant, especially in the way of perennial plants that will retain their space for years to come. So we love to use dual purpose plants. Such plants as muscadines, figs, and roselle all yield a fruit that is commonly held to be edible however in all three cases the leaves are also and are outstanding in tea form! Others such as rose, raspberry, fennel are also dual purpose and take up little space. These are definitely on our future planting list! Herbs like fennel, dill, and cilantro can be grown for their leaves and bulbs but also the seed! There are SO MANY MORE! Depending on your zone, your apothecary could be enormous if you have the time and space!
Much emphasis is also put on the durability of the plant. How will it hold up to Alabama Summer? Will it draw pests? Will it deter pests? Can we also use it as a trap crop? There are so many considerations!
The practical people that we are, we are more partial to plants that will add some type of décor to our home as well. The beautiful flowers of the Bee Balm Wild Bergamot for instance were strikingly beautiful and had the added benefit of drawing and feeding the pollinators. That is music to any farmer’s ears! Most of these are also utilized in our Flowers by BHG subscription.
In our quest for more sustainability we also strive to use herbs that can be used in spice blends for our family. This year we had to please of sharing a lot of these blends with the public at the Summer Farmer’s Market . These will definitely make a return next Summer so if you are local to Dothan then be on the lookout. If you are not local, no worries, our spice blends and our teas ship throughout the US.
As a Certified Naturally Grown Farm all of our produce is grown using NOP practices. From fertilizing to treating for pests all of our inputs are organic. This definitely comes at a cost to us but it yields a reliable product. There is definitely a fight with pests! They like organic produce too! As most of the organic pesticides are water soluble they need reapplying frequently. Much diligence is required. Often time you can find me in the garden squealing as I manually remove pests from our produce! Mr. Bain Home Gardener often teases me about being a farmer afraid of bugs. I am unique, what can I say?
Ensuring that we have organic compost/garden soil to plant in can often result in great expense as this is difficult to source. What we make here on farm is not enough at this time to sustain our planting space. We hope to attain that level one day however it is not today! What we are able to source we generally work into existing beds prior to planting. We find that if we plant in a healthy soil then our perennials do well with a quarterly fertilizing and of course being watered regularly, depending on the plant.
We have worked really hard to grow everything from seed on our farm. However in the way of some items as fruit trees and tea trees we have had to outsource. Doing this even needs to be done within the rules and regulations of CNG. It can be a lot to keep up with but it is rewarding to do things in such a way that is better for the environment and certainly better for us!
Because we are growing all the ingredients in our teas a lot of our blends once the produce is out of season generally we will not have the blend again until its back in season. The exception is if we had a bumper crop of said item and have some left over later in the season. That does happen occasionally. Another caveat is if that particular crop fails for the season then that ingredient will not be available for tea blends until the following year. This is why we encourage our customers to stock up on blends that they really enjoy because although we may plan to have it the following year there is always that unpredictable part of farming that no one can account for.
We have found recently that we actually have a lot of native plants that would be considered weeds because of their invasive nature. Of these is Goldenrod. Despite our attempts it comes back yearly so we have decided to make use of it!
Isn’t this the best part about growing food – the pay off! The interesting thing about a lot of items used in teas though is that you usually do not harvest all at once. You have to leave enough on perennial plants for the plant to remain healthy, grow, and store energy to return the following year. In a lot of cases it is even best to not harvest from the plant the first year (later for some varieties) at all. It can be a waiting game but it is worth it!
During the Summer a lot of herbs come to harvest at the same time so we generally give ourselves a week to deal with each as needed.
Preservation & Storage
Once harvested we have to figure out the best way to preserve the harvest. If you homestead then this is a common issue you may face each year. Some items dehydrate very well just hanging out of the way others need to be dehydrated. In some cases the way you plan to use the herb comes into play. We can infuse olive oil with rosemary, goldenrod, or lavender to use later in salves and or lotions. However if I want to make spice blends then obviously we need to dehydrate. If you have a freeze dryer you may find that to also be beneficial. We hope to be in a position to get one soon. For now our Cosori gets quite the workout!
Once our items are dehydrated we store them in one of two ways:
- Mason Jar – When storing in a Mason jar we usually will vacuum seal the jar. Afterwards we place in cool dark location
- Mylar Bag – When storing in a mylar bag we simply heat seal the bag. If you chose to do so you may include an oxygen absorber.
This is such an enjoyable part of making your own anything – making it just the way you want it! Burger King has no idea what that phrase really means! Let me tone down the excitement …
When we are crafting tea blends one of the things we do is become familiar with the herbs we are working with. We learn what we can about what they are beneficial for and even what issues they may cause. We want to know because many of you ask and we want to be able to pass that information along. There is another reason too. Just because something is herbal or organic doesn’t necessarily mean it cannot have negative side effects. IE opiates, just saying. Having said that, we advise anyone purchasing tea blends to research! Make sure these herbs will not interact adversely with medications you may be taking, interact with health conditions, etc. For instance, some studies show that Goldenrod may reduce blood pressure. While that is an amazing benefit, one that is on blood pressure medication would want to be cautious or may chose to not use Goldenrod tea at all due to the risk of bottoming out their blood pressure. This is just one example so please my friends, DO YOUR RESEARCH!
The other side of becoming familiar with a plant is knowing what it tastes like. We generally run many tastes test on blends before we will release to the public. It is important to us that you have a very pleasant experience while drinking our tea blends. If we can give you healthy and appetizing, why not?!
There are so many other considerations as well. What flavors pair well together? Which flavors do we what to highlight? Which flavors take the backseat to be the undertones? In some cases we have not been able to get the flavor just right for you so we hang on to those herbs until another one comes up for harvest that may bring out flavors more interesting and palatable. That is a rewarding moment!
What Teas Are Brewing
Right now at Bain Home Gardens we are Brewing Roselle Hibiscus Tea and Bee Balm Bergamot Tea. This week we will also be releasing our Goldenrod and Goldenrod Basil teas. We are busy testing out more blends each week and hope to add more flavors of our home grown, hand crafted teas to the store soon! Till next time – PINKY UP!