My parents have a super garden behind their house. They’ve worked really hard to make it a beautiful, peaceful place to spend time, and it is rather smashing, I must say. There is even a pond which is home to an indeterminate number of fish and an extremely photogenic frog. Check it:
They also grow fruit, veg and herbs including (but not limited to) apples, courgettes, cucumbers, carrots, potatoes, rhubarb, strawberries, tomatoes, lettuce, lemon thyme, parsley and mint. In moderate quantities, you realise, they don’t actually live on a farm. On a recent visit, they asked if I’d like to bring home some mint, given that they had an absurd amount that was threatening to take over quite a lot of the garden, so I cut myself a handful of stems to bring home and dry, as a bit of an experiment. Here it is in its natural habitat, before I got my hands on it:
My previous attempts at preserving herbs have been hit and miss. I have dried rosemary and thyme completely by accident, by having them in the fridge and forgetting about them until they are shadows of their former selves. That’s worked out really well, because it means no waste but also no effort whatsoever. Then there’s the leafier herbs, which cause me more trouble. They go soggy and slimy in the fridge if you forget about them, and they go wilty and pathetic on the counter. I read somewhere that you can keep them in water, like cut flowers. I tried that. This is what happened:
One swamp-in-a-jar, no waiting. You can’t really see the swamp that clearly here, which is a blessing and should be counted as such. Don’t know what I did wrong, but it was definitely SOMETHING.
Luckily, drying the mint was really easy – I made sure it was clean, wiping away any mud with an only slightly damp paper towel, then I bound the stems together with an elastic band and hung the bouquet upside down in my kitchen, so that it was suspended away from any surfaces. I left it for ten days and there it was – dried mint. It goes much darker in colour, and looks a lot more eldritch with its stems pointing every which way, and the leaves all curled in on themselves (and each other). I suppose I wouldn’t look too great myself if you left me hanging upside down without any food or water for ten days.
During the ten days of drying, I realised that this was the ideal time to make myself mint tea, with mint from the garden. I hopped on eBay and picked up some empty tea bags, which I’m definitely over-excited about having. Here they are – they open at the top, and when you’ve filled them you pull a little drawstring to close them up, so you don’t get a cup full of loose tea leaves or bits of herb or whatever you’ve filled the bags with.
I stripped the leaves off the mint stems and lightly crushed them – if you go too far, you’ll end up with powder that you can’t scrape up off the surface to get into the tea bags – then broke the stems into little pieces and added those to the pile, too. The smell of the mint is lovely, more subtle than from the fresh leaves, as you’d imagine, and very refreshing for the sinuses.
I divided the mint between six teabags, though I probably could have managed about ten if I had been a bit more conservative in filling them. Not a bag yield for five or six stems of mint. The resulting tea is great! It’s fresh, not too strong, with a wonderful scent and a subtle green colour. As it turns out, it’s really difficult to photograph a cup of mint tea with your camera phone, but here is a decent shot of the bag beginning to infuse – I love how you can see all the leaves and bits of stem.
While I was about it, I also decanted some loose tea that I had in the cupboard into tea bags, so I could tae it into work and enjoy it every day instead of just on special occasions. By ‘special occasions’ I mean ‘times when I remember I have lovely loose leaf tea in the cupboard and get out the teapot or tea strainer so I can drink it’. The two kinds I had were a blue flower Earl Grey, which was in my first Foodie Penpals parcel, and a rose, hibiscus and pomegranate tea that the ever-generous Lucy from Offally Good sent me a while back when I was feeling a bit poorly. Both are a pleasure to drink, different from your bog standard tea and will be perfect to keep in the office for mid-afternoon treats.
I found it useful to have a funnel to fill the teabags – a wide icing nozzle was the perfect tool. Here are a few photos of my Evening of Tea.
The most fun part about making my own teabags was getting out my icing pens and writing right on the bags themselves. I wrote what kind of tea each one was, but I also added a wee kiss to a lot of the bags, and some smiley faces on the mint ones. They’re like tiny love notes from myself to myself. I won’t start all that quantum chat again, but it’ll be nice, one day in the future, to take out a tea bag and look at the happy face on it and smile back. And then plunge it into boiling water. Oh.