I’m Growing My Own Tea!

I adore tea.  Black, White, Green or even Oolong.  Offer me a cup of tea and I will be your friend forever!

I enjoy drinking herbal teas also, but nothing can beat a cold glass of lemon balm leaves steeped in white tea on a hot summer day.  Ahhhhh  🙂

I thought I was doomed to continuously spending lots of money on my tea habit until I found out that I can actually grow my own tea plants.  Happy Dance!

Until a few months ago, I thought all tea plants were tropical!  Nope!  Shows how much I don’t know. In fact, a lot of tea plant varieties can withstand freezing temperatures down to 0 degrees and grow well in zones 7 – 9.  Seriously!

One Green World, Korean TeaThen I saw these Camilla Sinensus v. Sinensus (that’s the official name of a tea plant that comes from eastern and northern Asia. Camilla Sinensus Assamica comes from India and regions surrounding it) plants for sale on a website called One Green World, and I just couldn’t resist.  The Sochi variety and the Korean Mountain variety of tea can both withstand the coldest temperatures that we get here on our homestead, so that means I can grow tea!         Oh Joy!

So, I bought two tea plants, one Sochi and one Korean Mountain, and they arrived a few weeks ago.

How to grow camellia sinensus

This is how the tea plants arrived. They were so well packed that I don’t think any leaves were harmed! Thank you, One Green World, for sending me such beautiful plants!

Can you believe the size of these plants?  From root tip to leaf tip, about three feet tall!  I certainly wasn’t expecting them to look so good!  Now, I am not a spokesperson for this plant nursery, nor have I been compensated in any way for saying this.  I just think that when a business makes a happy customer, they should be commended.  Kudos!

Growing green tea

Here is how the tea plants came from the nursery.

The plants came in plastic pots, where they had to stay for a few days while I went into town to get some newer, larger ones.  I took them out of the box and set them upright, but kept the plastic sleeve over the pot so the roots wouldn’t dry out.

Because I want to plant these into the ground near our new home, for now they will have to live in pots until most of the building is done.  The plants like to get some sun and enjoy partial shade, but harsh summer afternoon sunshine is not their “cup of tea”.

Yes, I just said that.  😉

How I am growing camellia sinensus

Look at the root system of these plants – very well established. I just teased the roots a bit before planting in the new pots.

I can’t wait to harvest some tea and try it, but I am going to wait until the plants are better established in the pots.  They both have some new growth already, but it is still early and I would assume they have some shock to go through from shipping, so I am going to let the roots “steep” (holy cow, 🙂 I am on a roll) in their new soil for a while first. After a few weeks, once the spring temperatures are more stable, I will give them some of my homebrewed kelp fertilizer.

I did some research on how to grow the tea plants, and apparently these plants like a fairly acidic soil that well drained and can be kept moist, which is what we have. They also like to have part shade if your afternoons are hot, which is just the kind of conditions that my new elderberry plants wanted – so I may end up putting them next to the elderberry bushes.  Mmmmmmmm… elderberry green tea sweetened with stevia…

Speaking of my elderberry plants – they are already beginning to leaf out!

How to grow camellia sinensus v sinesus

The elderberries are starting to get leaves. This is a branch of one of the larger plants. All four plants did well through the winter, so I hope to harvest more elderberries this year and dry some just for my tea!

Once the tea plants are established, I will harvest some of the growth tips and try my hand at preparing the tea leaves into either white or green tea, depending on how the leaves are processed. Maybe even oolong or black tea. I hope to post that process soon, but I don’t want to shock the poor plants right now any more than the shipping may have.

How to grow Tea

These plants have plenty of room to spread their roots, and I hope to be able to plant them in the ground next fall, when (hopefully) there won’t be as much construction traffic going on.

However, I have read that it is necessary to harvest the new tea leaves as soon as they appear, before they get too big and not useful. Harvesting also helps to prune the plant and keep it at a reasonable height, as some can grow more than 15 feet tall, and I certainly do not want to climb a ladder for my tea!  After doing more research, I found that harvesting the tea leaves four times a year would not be unreasonable, starting with what the Chinese call the “first flush” n the spring, and ending sometime in August, so that I don’t disturb the fall flowers too much.  I think my honey bees will just adore the tea leaves!

In the meantime, I am dreaming of all the types of tea add-ins – rose hips, madrone berries, dried elderberries, lavender flowers, dehydrated orange peel, dried mint and or lemon balm leaves…  the possibilities are endless!  Of course, to sweeten the tea, I have my faithful stevia plant or my yummy honey from our bees!  I think I am going to collect a bunch of beautiful jars with the bail top lids so I can store the tea and all these flavorings.  Won’t that look pretty on an open shelf in my kitchen?

This is going to be so much fun!

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Elderberry Tonic and Fire Cider

The hubby and I recently attended a class on Herbal Medicine for the Cold and Flu Season at our local Community Center.  The class was given by Kim, who is a Master Gardener and has studied herbal medicines including teas, tinctures, infusions and decoctions. It is so true that the “old ways” are sometimes best and many people can avoid costly visits to their doctor if they were to try some of these “recipes”.

I recently have been reading Jean Auel’s series of books “Clan of the Cave Bear” and have been fascinated by the descriptions of the plants and herbs used by the ancient people  depicted in these books.  I have always known that most of our modern day medicines have been derived from plants, including aspirin, digitalis and morphine.  But, being a novice at herbalism, I have no real clue which plants to use for what, why and how!  That’s why this class was so interesting, knowing that we can grow many of our own medicines in our own backyard!

Roots and Rhizomes used as medicine

Roots and rhizomes used in healthful tonics and tinctures that can be grown in your own backyard – USDA zone permitting. I can grow these in my zone as long as I protect the ginger and tumeric rhizomes from freezing.

During the class we were introduced to Elderberry syrup, which is an antiviral/antimicrobial and therefore is good for immunity, colds and cough.  It keeps well in the refrigerator for several months.  Kim uses dried elderberry, elderberry flowers, cinnamon, ginger and honey to make the syrup.  She passed around samples of the syrup, and it actually tastes very good!  We also got to take home a cute little bottle of the syrup, which is now waiting in my fridge for that first sniffle!  When we went back to our future homestead after the class, Ray spied this little plant with blue/black berries.  Is it a baby elderberry bush? Right on our own property?

Baby elderberry bush

Does anyone know if this is a baby elderberry bush?

Next we got to taste her Fire Cider, which is a decongesting tonic, supports immunity and aids digestion.  This recipe starts with apple cider vinegar (with the mother), adding horseradish, garlic, onion, ginger, tumeric, rosemary and cayenne, all deconcocting in a quart mason jar in a dark cupboard for four weeks.  The infused vinegar is then strained.  You can add a touch of honey to taste, then store the Fire Cider in a dark jar or bottle on the shelf.  Let me tell you, when she passed around the sample to taste, I can certainly see how this would be a decongestant!  Hoo-wee!  But, add a little bit of olive oil, and this would certainly make a wonderful salad dressing with a bit of a kick! After the class I went home and googled for this decongesting tonic and found that there are quite a few variations of this tonic.  Some include this and others include that, but this is the recipe that was given to me at the class:Fire Cider Tonic

The two hour class also covered herbal teas, and she gave us a recipe (and another sample to take home) of Lemon Mint tea sweetened with Stevia.  This tea is heavenly, hot or cold!  It included lemon balm, lemon verbena, lemon thyme, lemongrass, peppermint and stevia.  The pitcher containing the sample of this tea went around the classroom several times (it was that good) and I think we drained it! 😀

The last section of the class covered bath salts.  Bath salts not only smell good (aromatherapy is a very strong component of natural health remedies), but also warm the body.  Kim suggested that you soak in the tub of hot water infused with her recipe for bath salts and fresh ginger for 20-30 minutes.  Once you dry yourself off, wrap up in a warm robe or blanket for another 30 minutes.  She explained that the salts along with the ginger and hot water will bring greater circulation to the skin, giving a warmth that will probably make you sweat, which is good for the body.  Her recipe included fresh slices of ginger, along with the epsom salts that have been infused with eucalyptus oil, thyme oil, tea tree oil, and lemon oil.  The sample she gave each of us smelled out of this world heavenly!

Elderberry tonic and Fire Cider

Our three samples from class:   On the left is the heavenly Bath Salts, in the middle is the Elderberry Tonic and on the right is Lemon Mint Herbal Tea.

I know it sounds strange, but I am almost looking forward to that first sign of a cold!  I will take a hot bath with the bath salts, then afterward, while snuggled in a nice warm blanket, sip some hot, freshly brewed Lemon Mint tea!  Later, I will have a nice kale salad dressed with Fire Cider and olive oil!

Here is a picture of my Fire Cider just after I made it.  In about four weeks, I’ll let you know how it tastes! You can see the orange shreds of the tumeric and the green is the rosemary.

Fire Cider Tonic

Thanks for the class, Kim – I am looking forward to the next one!

PS:   Is the plant in the picture above an elderberry?  Leave a comment if you have an opinion, or even if you don’t! 😀

 

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