GARDEN VIEW: Herbal teas: refreshing and tasty

Herb gardens are in their glory right now in the Rio Grande Valley, especially those herbs that thrive in tropical and subtropical regions, like basil and lemon grass.

These herbs are used around the world in culinary dishes, herbal teas and for medicinal purposes. The flowers of basil support some insects and the fragrant leaves, of some, repel insect pests. The seeds of basil are enjoyed by small birds, such as goldfinches. And, basils look great in a vase with other flowers.

In the basil group, there are many choices to plant in the garden or in your favorite container. The genus and species, Ocimom basilicum, contains more than 60 cultivars that are all edible.

This provides a wealth of basils for us to choose from for a home garden.

Basil is an annual requiring full sun and well drained soils. In hot, windy weather, it will require daily watering. By pinching off the flowers, plants will last longer in the garden. The flowers, however, support a wide variety of pollinators, including bees, so some plants should be left to flower. And, if you allow the plant to flower and seed out, then you can collect seeds to plant in the next season.

Several kinds of basil make a tasty tea, including lemon basil and lime basil. You can use them fresh or dry the leaves. Basil can be used on its own or mixed with other herbs, like lemon grass, to make refreshing and healthy teas. Basil is known to have anti-inflammatory properties with plenty of vitamin C. It also supports our digestive system and helps fight depression, flu and colds.

Lemon grass also supports a healthy digestive system, and has anti-inflammatory properties, along with antioxidant and antimicrobial properties. Lemon grass also helps to relive the symptoms of colds and flu. So, working together, lemon or lime basil partnered with lemon grass is not only refreshing, but this herbal tea blend offers great health support, especially from colds, flu, or upset tummies.

If you would like to try herbal teas utilizing lemon basil and lemon grass, today, the Growing Growers Farmers Market has several combinations of these dried herbal blends. This market is located in Firemen’s Park, as 201 First Street, near the corner of First Street and Business 83 in McAllen. Hours for the market are 9 a.m. to noon, every Saturday. For more information about the market, call (956) 330-6410.

Barbara Storz is a local horticulturist. You can email her at bstorz10@gmail.com.