This might be my shortest blog post ever. You might consider this a historic event in that regard since I never seem to be short on words. <insert happy crying emoji>
A few weeks ago I picked up my farm share and among all the vegetable and herb goodness, the farmer gave me cut purple cone flowers. I sent her a text asking what am I supposed to do with the cone flowers? They were very pretty, but they also grow abundantly in my backyard, and maybe yours too. Quickly a response came back, the cone flowers are Echinacea and apparently you can make tea! Really? I Googled this right away and sure enough, this common garden perennial has been known for immune boosting and antimicrobial properties, reducing symptoms of the common cold, flu and other illnesses and infections. Like most naturally grown plants and herbs, the scientific findings are mixed although the use of this flower for medicinal properties goes back centuries. As long as there were no side effects or poison issues, I was open to trying it. This post will also be a quick installment in my series, What’s In The Box!, all about what to do with the deliciously fresh and sometimes not-so-common items you receive from your CSA or local farmer’s market.
To make the tea I started by drying the flowers as I wanted a stash available for early fall and the start of cold & flu season, but you can also use freshly cut stems to make your tea as well. I tied a clump of the blooms together and hung them upside in my kitchen for at least a week before bagging them up and storing in the refrigerator. You can do this with most herbs – they will last dried, when refrigerated in a sealed bag, for up to one year and you can even freeze them if that is your preference. Make sure they are completely dry and no moisture remains and no mold has formed. Discard any blooms or herbs if you notice this. My personal pro tip is to hang them loosely to ensure even drying without moisture or mold issues.
If you are harvesting the flowers from your backyard, simply cut the flowers at the first set of leaves.
The tea is simple to make:
1/2 cup fresh echinacea leaves, stem, petals and cone center or 1/4 cup dried
8 oz. of water
1 – 2 teaspoons of raw honey
Simmer water over medium heat. Add the echinacea. Cover and simmer for at least 15 minutes. Strain into and mug and enjoy!
I made a 3-4 cup batch of this in an electric kettle that my best friend gave me, and is amazing for purposes such as homemade tea making or loose leaf tea steeping. It has a mesh screen at the spout ensuring only the tea makes it into the cup. I used about 12 flowers, with cones, petals and short stems, which made clean up a breeze as well because I just plucked them out when cooled and rinsed the tea pot with little mess. It smelled very earthy in the cup and once I added a little honey I was surprised at how amazing the tea tasted. It didn’t upset my stomach, no caffeine, pleasant taste, and locally grown so the flower’s natural intelligence was still intact.