Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Growing Tea Herbs for Fun or Profit

Growing herbs for tea can be either a pleasant hobby or become a market crop offered to customers in a variety of ways, giving them the opportunity to add healthy variety to their beverage menu, whether warming up in the morning with a fresh-picked brew, or sipping garden-grown iced tea on a summer afternoon.
Both are often grown sustainably and can be found in Europe and North America through fair trade from their native land of South Africa. For the purposes of this article, I'll casually call infusions of any appropriate plant material for beverage purposes, "tea." Another couple of exotic plants out of Africa, Rooibos (pronounced roy-boss) and Honeybush, have recently entered the worldwide tea market. Infusions of this plant are considered "real" tea. According to legend, tea drinking from this plant originated in China four to five thousand years ago, reaching Europe in the 1600s.

Black, green, oolong and the rarer white tea, which all come from an evergreen bush (Camellia sinensis) native to China and India, are popular worldwide. Humans and tea go back a long way.
But herbal tea, grown from a variety of herbs, is also a well-established tradition worldwide. Such herbal tea was in use in Europe long before black tea arrived. Drinking herbal infusions is believed to date into prehistoric times. Even animals have been known to put specific plants into small water-holding areas and seemingly wait for infusion before drinking.
Each herb has its own special needs and specific plant parts and detailed growing instructions are usually described with the purchase of the plant or in any good herbal book. Needing only moderate watering, their soil calls for little or no fertilizer, and in fact should not be too rich as to cause excessive greenery that seems to dilute the aromatic oils. Some herbs thrive in full sun, but others prefer partial sun or even shade.
(c) 2006 Barbara Adams


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