Farmers Market Blend Beginnings January 23 2015I began making Farmers Market Blend tea many years ago when I actually went to the local Farmers Market to sell my tea. The rules there were that vendors could only sell those things that they grew. So I made a blend out of herbs and flowers that grew in my yard.
I have a great profusion of Lemon Balm and many kinds of mint growing in my yard, and I love roses, especially the fragrant ones, so that became the base of my homegrown tea. I bought a dehydrator, and dried the flowers and herbs as I picked them.
The tea was a combination of Lemon Balm, Mint, Raspberry Leaves, Blackberry Leaves, Nettle Leaves, Pineapple Sage and Stevia Leaf. I would pick those herbs that grew best according to the time of year, and dehydrated them. Then I mixed the herbs together and added whatever flowers I had.
There are lots of colorful, edible flowers beside roses that grow in profusion at different times of year. We have Roses, Calendula, Viola, Pansies, Fuchsias, Nasturtiums, Lavender and Honeysuckle to name a few.
The Herbal Infusion was always different, always delicious and always beautiful. It became quite popular. Then I realized that I was having trouble keeping up with demand, and there seemed to be no way I could make enough tea to keep for winter and early spring. So I made a blend that included not only those herbs and flowers that I could grow, but a number of ingredients that I could buy organically and knew to be especially healthy. That blend, and the healthy aspect of those ingredients will be the subject of another blog.
It's fun to think about how some of the Mendocino Tea Company's blends came into being.
The Edge of the Western World January 05 2015
We got up before dawn, made tea and rushed down to the edge of the western world to watch the moon set this morning. My husband is a real estate broker and has a listing that is thirty five acres overlooking the bluffs and the ocean, so we went there, The moon was obscured by clouds, but we caught a stunning sunrise, saw a gaggle of geese, and made two dogs ecstatically happy.
We took pictures, enjoyed our tea, and came home. Life is good.
Homemade Winter Herbal Infusions January 03 2015
We live in the Pacific Northwest, so these ideas for homegrown infusions will mostly work for our area, but they can give you ideas about what you can grow, or gather, wherever you are for the future. The best way to have delicious infusion materials available is to gather herbs and flowers that appeal to you all year long and dehydrate them, pack them in jars and store them in a dark, cool, dry place or you can reuse the black bags that our tea comes in, and just store them in a cool place.
Since it is winter now, I will concentrate on things that can be gathered and used today. Try:
Candy Cap Mushrooms
Mint or Sage
I even found some Roses, but I know it's something special and unusual this time of year. Rose Petals are always wonderful in herbal infusions, they add color and flavor.
Once you gather these things, you can make your infusions with the fresh herbs, or dehydrate them and keep them for later. If you can, I recommend that you use a dehydrator, but if not, you can try putting in the oven at the lowest setting for a short period of time spread out on a cookie sheet.
Mendocino Winters January 02 2015
The Holiday Season is over and it's really winter now. Sometimes it's dark outside all day long and our wood heat barely gets the house warm; then we have to back it up with an electric heater. We have cold winters here on the Mendocino Coast. It isn't cold in the classic way, with ice, snow and deep frosts, but it often rains and cold winds blow. Storms wipe our electricity out, and it's a good time to stay inside. I have grown fond of our winters.
When I moved here from Southern California, I had the wrong clothes and footwear for our weather, and I hated it. I never felt warm and dry unless I was in bed under lots of covers or I had just come out of the sauna.
My husband was fond of taking long mushroom walks in the woods, and while I thought they were beautiful and other worldly, I always came home soaked to the skin and cold. It wasn't until years later when I discovered how delicious they were and how to identify them that I was able to appreciate mushroom walks. By that time I had the right clothing and warm waterproof boots.
During that time, nearly fifty years ago, I discovered the true value of herbal tea. While I had always loved hot cider, I hadn't had much in the way of herbal tea. I started learning about the warming teas, especially those made with ginger, and began experimenting with them. In those days, I often added alcohol to the tea drinks. Now I find the tea to be enough.
I still take mushroom walks. Mushrooms are a staple for us in the fall and into the winter during wet years. I love finding them, it feels like an Easter Egg Hunt to me. Then I get to come home with my bounty to cook up something delectable. My friend Alison Gardner has just released a wonderful cookbook called The Wild Mushroom Cookbook, and I recommend it. She has thought of lots of things to do with mushrooms that never occurred to me. She has even invented a Candy Cap Chai that we will be adding to our tea on our website www.mendocinotea.com soon.
I encourage you to find ways to love your winters. I know it's cold and miserable outside, but it's marvelous to have time to discover the goodness inside. Winter is the time of year when we can enjoy the smallest things, like a good cup of tea, hot soup, jigsaw puzzles and board games. I hope you find your small joys now too.