Don’t Be a Tea Dragon!

When I’m talking to people about our teas at farmers markets there is one response that I hear fairly frequently, “I have so much tea at home”. Trying out new tea is wonderful.  But if you are just hoarding them like a tea dragon and not drinking them, it is time to do a little cabinet clearing and look at more ways to weave them into your life. 

There are so many ways to use tea, either Camellia sinensis in its black, white, and green modes, or herbal teas.  The following are just some ways to use up all that botanical wonderfulness.  Having said that, if your teas have been sitting on the shelf for longer than a year, even properly stored, first evaluate them to see if they should even be used.  If they look faded, “dusty”, or have lost their scent it is time to add them to the compost pile, and not the teapot.

  • Make a cocktail or mocktail.  This is a great place to experiment.  You can start with a strong infusion of your favorite teas, infuse the tea into a simple syrup to use in your drinks, infuse the tea directly into a spirit like gin or vodka, or infuse into a fruit juice you will use as a mixer. There are no rules here beyond what taste good. 
  • Use tea to infuse a brine for flavoring chicken or beef.
  • Add dry teas to your homemade soaps.
  • More of a latte kind of person?  Try a tea latte.  Steep 2 teaspoons of a favorite tea (herbal, or not) in ¾ cup of hot water.  Froth 1/3 cup of milk.  Stir milk into tea.  Add a sweetener, if you like.
  • Teas make an unexpected and tasty ingredient in cooking.  The Internet abounds with ideas for this, but as an example, try this recipe from Sunset magazine for Rooibos Butternut “Pizzettas”.

3 Tablespoons unsalted butter

1 tablespoon plus 1 ½ teaspoon rooibos tea leaves

2 medium-large butternut squashes

Drizzle of olive oil for baking sheets

1 teaspoon fine sea salt

Pepper

2 tablespoon chopped fresh chives.

  • Preheat oven to 425°. Heat a small frying pan over medium heat and add butter and 1 tbsp. tea. When butter foams, remove from heat, cover, and let infuse 10 minutes. Strain butter through a fine sieve; discard tea.
  • Meanwhile, using a large, sturdy, sharp knife, cut off stems and seedless “necks” of squashes (save seeded parts for another use). Stand each neck on a flat side and slice peel off with 7 or 8 cuts, leaving a kind of octagonal shape. Cut necks into 1/2-in. slices. Lightly oil 2 baking sheets and place squash, slightly separated, on sheets.
  • Pulverize remaining 1 1/2 tsp. tea leaves (if already fine, skip this step). Mix with salt.
  • Brush infused butter onto tops of squash slices, then season with pepper and rooibos salt. Bake until very soft, about 25 minutes. Transfer to a platter and sprinkle with chives.

(Sunset Magazine. “Rooibos Butternut “Pizzettas””, Accessed Sept 23, 2020,  https://www.sunset.com/recipe/rooibos-butternut-pizzettas)

  • Add teas to personal beauty products such as body scrubs.  A scrub, or polisher, is easy to make at home by combining 1 tablespoon of dried tea leaves to one cup of organic white or brown sugar, ½ a cup of extra virgin olive oil, or almond oil, 2 tablespoons of honey and 10 drops of your favorite essential oil.
  • Love the smell of teas?  Use them in place of potpourri.  Place an open jar or bowl of tea in a closet or on a shelf to delicately scent the area.  Or pop into a net bag and add to a drawer (or gym bag…or car).  You can even gently simmer teas on the stove.
  • Another way to use up some of that collected tea?  Get a large glass jar with lid, fill it with cool water, add your tea (in a quantity to match the water, roughly 1 teaspoon of tea per cup of water), and place in a bright sunny spot until you see a nice rich brew.  Store your sun tea in the refrigerator and you can enjoy fresh ice tea anytime.  You can also do this and put the jar directly into the refrigerator to brew, but you will get a lighter brew.

So, stop collecting teas and start enjoying them more!

Blooming Artichoke Herbary (2020)

Yarrow, the Battlefield Boo Boo Butter

Yarrow (Achillea millifolium) is a decorative plant native to the temperate zones of North America, Europe and Asia and is commonly found in fields, pastures and ditches.  It’s use as a medicinal herb goes back thousands of years and the plant comes with a rich folklore history.  How many plants can claim a god keeps it in his first aid kit?  Well, actually quite a few.  But legend has it that the Achillea in Achillea millifolium is due to the god Achilles’ use of this plant to heal his soldiers’ wounds in battle (Ranson, 1954).  Historical and contemporary use of this plant include as a styptic to slow and stop bleeding and a vulnerary to promote wound healing, as well as a diaphoretic, astringent, tonic, stimulant and mild aromatic (Grieve, 1971).  These properties let to its use as to stop nosebleed, calm bleeding hemorrhoids, treat rheumatism and toothache, as a gargle for sore throat, to reduce blood pressure, and for relief from colds, bronchitis, coughs, asthma, fevers and catarrh (Grieve, 1971)(Dawson, 1980).

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The Milk Flowers of Spring, AKA Snowdrops!

Galanthus_nivalis_close-up_aka We’ve seen the first hard frost and the hardiest of the nursery stock has finally giving up the ghost for the season.  For me this is both a peaceful time of year and the time I start getting antsy.  The buzz, buzz, buzz, of plant growth and insect activity is quiet.  Below the soil the plants are still perking away slowly, getting ready for spring.  But I can’t SEE them.  By late December or January I’m rereading garden magazines and my seed catalogs are more thumbed over than a 14 year old boys secret Playboy stash. Thank goodness for snowdrops (Galanthus spp.).

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Interview on Lewistalks: Herbs and Sci Fi

A local new source just published an interview with me for Blooming Artichoke Herbary, as well as my husband, Tom Gondolfi, and his publishing company.  To learn about our joint efforts with herbs and the written science fiction word here is the article for your enjoyment.

Tom and Colleen Gondolfi: Passionate About Science Fiction and Herbs

 

Cats vs. Catnip

018At Blooming Artichoke we grow lots of different perennial herbs.  Some are easy plants to grow, some are more exact and difficult, but catnip (Nepeta cataria) has to be the most challenging of the lot because it calls out to all its destroyers within sniffing distance.

First of all, I love cats.  I’ve been a certified crazy cat lady my whole life.  I love plants.  And I have the plant geek certificates and stack of dirty garden gloves to prove it.  There are just times when those two loves do not work well together.  Catnip and furballs are a good example. 

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