Lemon Verbena Tea

First the lemon verbena grew into a great big bush in the summer. It lives in a half-wine barrel along my front pathway which is fairly protected from the frost. Lemon verbena is a bit fragile and doesn't cope well with hard frost. Then I dried it for a month or so in my garden shed. Then I put it in a box in my front porch in a giant bunch where it greeted visitors for another three months.

The Girl has been visiting for a week during her holidays so one night we sat at the table in front of the fire and stripped all the leaves from the verbena. The age-old women's tradition of talking and working lives on in our dining room.

And when the working is finished we continue the talking, this time with added lemon verbena tea. We tried it with sugar and without, and decided that without is preferable.

 Lemon verbena tea is rich in anti-oxidants, good for indigestion, heartburn, and lowering fevers. It also tastes good and smells divine. If you harvest the whole leaves you don't even need a tea strainer - just throw a few leaves into boiling water then fish them out with a teaspoon when your tea is steeped to your satisfaction.  This makes it a very practical tea for picnics, the office, and all events at which really terrible tea and coffee is served. A tiny pot of lemon verbena leaves stashed in the handbag, and instant, home-grown, hassle-free lemon tea nirvana is possible wherever boiling water is available.

This is my picnic tea tin. It is an old wedding cake slice tin from my granny. Apparently, once upon a time, brides would send slices of wedding cake in small tins to friends and relatives who couldn't make it to the wedding. This is a magnificent idea, and would make it very tempting not to go to the wedding. I mean, wedding cake - that's the best bit of the wedding. This way you would get the cake without having to dress up or travel interstate and sleep on your cousin's lounge room floor.

Anyway, small tin, lemon verbena tea. Hot water. Bliss.


Amanda said…
I love fresh herbal teas. I grow a lot of lemon balm which makes wonderful tea also.
Jo said…
Amanda, fresh herbal teas are not something I have tried much, but now you mention it, such a sensible idea during the growing season. Instant tea! I have bushels of mint here in the summer, I could drink it all day, every day without making a dent in supply! I must give it a go.
Anonymous said…
Love your blog posts, Jo. If we didn't live so far away, I think we would be great friends! :)
Treaders said…
I love that tin!! I know, I know, used to have a life and now I collect pretty tins, but hey, whatever floats your boat eh. For many years my dad would hand over his pay packet to my mom who would divvy it up for the bills and then hand him back his "pocket money" - which he always kept in a small tobacco tin. I have that tin and it is very sentimental to me! Anna
Beznarf27 said…
Any chance of a few cuttings from that magnificent lemon verbena Jo? Here's that sourdough potato bread recipe that you asked for by the way. I don't bake it in a boule, I put it into a bread tin and it makes for a much softer loaf. I use it for all kinds of things now as it is incredibly versatile and makes amazing cinnamon rolls :) I also use milk with the bread instead of water for making enriched doughs like cinnamon rolls as it makes the dough much softer and tastier

Jo said…
Patricia, let's be great friends from afar:)

Anna, I'm wondering if the world might be a better place if certain world leaders gave up their day jobs and collected pretty tins instead?? The story attached to your favourite tin is just lovely. It sounds like your dad had a real trust in your mum to handle the money. It is the opposite of that other common story of that era - the man who would come home and begrudgingly hand over the housekeeping money to his wife, and keep all the rest..

Fran, absolutely, come spring I will be able to provide you with dozens of lemon verbena cuttings:) Thanks for that recipe, I'll give it a go. Your loaves looked absolutely magnificent!
Hazel said…
I bought a new lemon verbena plant a couple of months ago and it's looking very happy in it's new pot, enjoying our hot weather. I just need to keep it alive over winter. In the green house didn't work last year (it was very cold and I don't think I watered it much) so I might have gained another houseplant.
Another vote for fresh lemon balm tea here too.
Jo said…
Hazel, is your greenhouse heated? I have been giving this some thought recently. An unheated greenhouse (glass? Plastic?) seems unlikely to hold heat overnight when it is really needed as it has very little thermal mass. Probably the best place for delicate plants is next to a sun-warmed wall as the heat is slowly returned to the plant overnight. My lemon verbena lives next to a concrete wall that gets the afternoon sun, and manages to survive winters that get down to -5C at night occasionally. Of course, your winters are probably much colder, and I am sure lemon verbena would make a lovely, fragrant house plant.
Anonymous said…
I agree on the world leaders comment, and yes, please on the friendship from a far! Hope you have a great week.
Fernglade Farm said…
Hi Jo,

Your lemon verbena is really impressive looking - one might even use the word "triffid" to describe its growth. Did the drying leaves produce much fragrance when brushed against? Yes, weddings in distant locales are not to my liking at all. I recently failed to attend an old friends birthday party in Perth (in WA not Tasmania! There was a nice old historic mansion in the town of Perth down your way) of all places. Honestly, two hours by car is a long way away to my mind. Back in the day the stories were all about Twenty League boots, magic flying carpets, or some such thing. The weather looks set to turn feral over the next few days. I wouldn't want to be on the ferry in such conditions. Stay safe and batten down the hatches.

Anonymous said…
I have mixed dried lemon verbena and lavender, and sewn up little sachets from fabric scraps. I put one in each of my shoes, especially the out-of-season ones. Dried thyme with a bit of lemon verbena is a good mix too.

Linda in NZ
Jo said…
Patricia, :)

Chris, yes, the lemon verbena is still very strong smelling after being dried for months. It's almost overpowering when you open up the jar!
Weddings in far away locations seem to be the thing.. wedding in Bali? Why not? Remember the days when you got married at the local church and if you were very posh, had a reception at the tennis club? If not posh, a marquee on the lawn at Aunty Beryl's with the groom's cousin doing the catering, and always the bride's mother knew someone who did cake decorating as a hobby..

Linda, to avoid that musty smell in your summer shoes at the end of winter? Brilliant! I am going to do that with those little organza party favour bags that I seem to have a collection of in a drawer somewhere..
GretchenJoanna said…
Okay, you have convinced me to try growing lemon verbena again! The first time, my plant got too much water from the neighbor's over-irrigating on the other side of the fence, but surely now I have somewhere else I could tuck in a plant and see how it goes... or grow it in a pot I could move into the greenhouse in winter...? I must try something. Your suggestion of a few leaves kept in the handbag was the clincher.
Hazel said…
Jo, It's an unheated greenhouse and last winter was very cold for a long time after a couple of pretty mild winters. I think not watering it sped up it's demise (out of sight, out of mind) so I'm going to cosset this one and then take some cuttings when it's bigger so I can experiment. I have a south (ish) facing wall which my fig tree seems to like, so along there may be a good idea.
Jo said…
Gretchen Joanna, I am pretty sure that you would be able to grow lemon verbena outside year round in California. You never know, you may spy some in someone's garden on your walks and be able to take some cuttings!

Hazel, I have found that lots of water in summer is good, outside it gets a lot of water in the winter. The other problem is little mites on the underside of the leaves in summer, which I kill off by hosing under the leaves. And pruning in summer to help it bush out instead of growing long and leggy. It loves pruning, which is brilliant for tea-making! My builder has a cold so I fed him lots of lemon verbena tea today. Hopefully he will be cured and back tomorrow!

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