Nothing says summertime like having a cool drink in the shade. We enjoy a lot of iced drinks here on the farm, especially when the chores keep us outside on hot days. Despite the hundreds of beverage choices on the market, however, there are several reasons we choose to make our own. Not only is it the sustainable choice (we like to skip the plastic jugs and juice boxes) but we avoid numerous additives like sugar, artificial preservatives and food dyes. And we save money as well!
To keep our cool beverages flowing, we grow five plants in our garden that ensure a constant supply and a pleasing variety. These herbs aren’t finicky—they can be grown in a country garden or a city balcony. All they need is soil, water, and sunshine! Want to try growing your own? Or if you want to start making yummy teas right away, you can can order all of these in dried or powdered form from Mountain Rose Herbs, a reliable source of sustainable herbal products. (not affiliated)
Tips for Growing the Herbs
The first three are all in the mint family and will spread all over the place, so unless you have a lot of garden space to spare, plant these in their own pots!
- Peppermint: A very familiar garden herb, cooling, refreshing and helpful for digestion. Yes, it grows like crazy but we use LOTS of it!
- Lemon Balm: Known to be soothing and calming to the nervous system, great when you need to relax.
- Tulsi (or Holy Basil): Known in India as “the queen of herbs” where it is used as an herbal remedy for many common ailments, including stress relief!
These two will mind their garden manners a little better by staying within their boundaries. If they like their spot they’ll bush out and grow to be about three feet tall.
- Lemon Verbena: Fragrant and delicious with a delightful lemony taste, good for congestion, inflammation insomnia, and weight loss.
- Stevia: Nature’s healthy sweetener. You can make any of these drinks as sweet as you like with zero sugar or artificial ingredients!
Where can you get these plants? You’ll most likely find peppermint and lemon balm at your local nursery or any place that sells starter plants in spring and early summer. In recent years, I’ve begun to see stevia starts in the nurseries as well. Tulsi is often found at places that sell herbs. You can order the seeds for both stevia and tulsi at Mountain Rose Herbs. Lemon Verbena is often sold as a starter plant in nurseries as a natural insect repellent.
Creating Your Own Delicious Summer Drinks
Basic Herbal Iced Tea
- Choose any one or any combination of the mint, lemon balm, tulsi or lemon verbena leaves and pack a half gallon mason jar* about ⅓ to 1/2 full (with fresh leaves) or 2 ounces of the dried. If you want it sweet, add a handful of crushed, fresh stevia leaves or powdered stevia to taste.
- Pour boiling water over the tea leaves to fill the jar. Place the lid, tighten slightly and let sit until cool (4-6 hours).
- When the jar is room temperature, pour the tea over a strainer into your container of choice and compost the leaves.
- When chilled, serve over ice with a lemon slice and a whole peppermint stem if desired.
*Avoid pouring boiling water into a cool jar or likewise, trying to rapidly cool a warm jar as a sudden temperature change could cause breakage.
- For a more traditional iced tea blend, add 5-6 black tea bags in with any combination of the herbal tea leaves.
- For super hydration, add ¼-1/2 cup apple cider vinegar!
- For extra flavor, add fresh berries, honey, or a whole cut-up lemon (if organic, include a tsp of zest) to the jar before adding the boiling water.
- For a delicious lemonade, add ¼-½ cup apple cider vinegar, the juice from two whole organic lemons plus a teaspoon of zest, a handful of crushed stevia leaves, a whole, fresh peppermint stem with leaves or 1 oz of the dried.
Whether you’ve got a garden plot or a few pots on the balcony, having these plants on hand will provide you with a whole summertime of delightful, healthful beverages. And of course, having the dried on hand will ensure you tasty iced or hot teas all year round!
Get ready for everyone to say, “Hmmm, this is sooo good! What’s in it?”