The tea industry has declared June “National Iced Tea Month,” so let’s look at some charming herbal teas that you can grow well in Southwestern landscapes.
I write for several other blogs, including Savor the Southwest (savorthesw.com), and will soon mention some tasty tea blends there. On this – a gardening site – let’s look at growing three great native plants you can use for iced-herb-tea. These plants all grow in full sun. All grow so well in the heat of summer that they will need some trimming – trimmings you can use for making some tea!
Desert lavender (Hyptis emoryi) is completely wonderful in so many ways. It is a tall, dense shrub with fragrant silvery foliage (up to 9 feet). The dense foliage makes a great privacy screen. Desert lavender needs far less water than the Texas rain sages, also called Texas rangers (Leucophyllum).
The clusters of lavender-scented and lavender colored flowers attract native pollinators, especially butterflies. One thing desert lavender needs is well-drained soil. In the wild they grow along rocky and sandy desert washes.
Using desert lavender.
Both the leaves and flowers have a fresh, palate cleansing flavor.
Poliomintha has many names, including rosemary mint (Poliomintha incana). Yes, it is in the mint family. It is a low shrub-like perennial with rich green leaves and colorful blooms. Foliage is strongly aromatic and has delicate white hairs, like it’s cousin the apple mint. Plants do well in most desert soils as long as they drain, caliche is ok, but clay is not.
As a tea, poliomintha leaves offer a flavor that is a tangy blend of rosemary and mint – very refreshing and palate cleansing on a hot dusty day.
Poreleaf or slender poreleaf (Porophyllum gracile) is a low growing perennial which forms a cloud of bluish-silver foliage and stems. It can be found dotting the desert. Delicate white blooms attract native bees. As for water, the ones on my acre are still here despite no water from me. They do well in rocky or sandy, even caliche soils.
Foliage offers a sharp slightly spruce-like tang with hints of anise. Honestly it’s a taste that’s not for everyone, but I like it as a morning wake-me-up tea.
You Can Grow all three of these native plants in your low-water landscape – plus they can be harvested for tea, cooking, and more.
If you live in Southeastern Arizona, please come to one of my lectures. Look for me at your local Pima County Library branch, Tubac Presidio, Tucson Festival of Books and other venues. After each event I sell and sign copies of my books, including “Father Kino’s Herbs: Growing and Using Them Today.” Note: This link is to Amazon and if you buy the book there I will get a few pennies.
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