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Making Mint Iced Tea

July 10, 2012

Our Spearmint.

 

When we were younger, we had a large bed of spearmint and peppermint on the side of our house.  They were separate, but thriving.  We used quite a bit of mint in those days, especially during the summer months when our children would clamor for mint iced tea. We made two different kinds of mint iced teas – one was a mix of regular tea and mint tea, and the other was mint tea by itself.  Both were very popular with our children and their friends.

 

Closeup of Spearmint Plant

 

We would start by picking some spearmint and peppermint sprigs (stems with leaves), and take them to the kitchen.  There we would strip the leaves from the stems and place them in a large bowl.  Then, we would put the tea kettle on to get some boiling water going.  Also, we would find a large pitcher, and hang several regular tea bags inside the pitcher close to its bottom.

 

 

Spearmint Leaves

 

When the water boiled, we would crush the mint leaves in the bowl.  Then, we would pour the just enough boiling water over the leaves to cover them.  Also we would pour some of the remaining boiling water over the tea bags in the pitcher, just enough to cover them.

 

We would wait for about five to ten minutes. Then, we would pour the water and mint leaves through a fine-mesh sieve to remove the mint leaves from the resulting mint tea.  Also, we would be sure to squeeze the mint leaves above the sieve to get the last bit of their flavor into the  tea.

 

Next, we would pull the regular tea bags from the pitcher and squeeze them over the pitcher to get the last bit of their flavor as well.  Then, we would combine the mint and regular teas in the pitcher and add just enough water to dilute its strength into a more palatable drink.

 

Finally, while the tea was still warm, we would sweeten it with honey, adding the honey and then tasting it to see if we needed to add more.  When the sweetness was just right, we would add ice to the pitcher, stir and then tell everybody it was ready.  Then we would serve the tea in glasses of ice, and garnish it with sprigs of fresh mint.

 

Some people like to serve the tea with a slice of lemon and squeeze some lemon juice into the tea.  That’s OK.  Just do it before you add the honey.

 

Frankly, another favorite of ours was the mint tea alone.  No regular tea.  No lemon.  Just the mint and some sweetener, such as honey, added.  If you need artificial sweetener because you’re diabetic, try stevia.  You can make a tea from stevia and add this to the mint tea.  The process is described below.

 

The main thing about mint iced tea is that it’s perfect for hot summer days.  It’s cool and refreshing.

 

Here’s a recipe for Mint Iced Tea that optionally uses lemon.

 

Mint Iced Tea

 

Ingredients

6 teabags of regular tea

Several sprigs of Spearmint, enough for about 4 cups of leaves

1 quart of boiling water

Additional sprigs of Spearmint for garnish

Lemon for garnishing (optional)

Juice of a large lemon (optional)

Sweeten to taste with honey, Stevia tea or Sugar Syrup

Tall Glasses with Ice

 

Directions

Over the tea and mint, pour boiling water.  Let it steep for 3 to 5 minutes.  Remove the tea bags and strain the remaining liquid to remove the mint leaves. Add the lemon juice, if you wish and sweeten to taste with the sweetener of your choice. Pour the tea into tall glasses 2/3 full of ice. Garnish with sprigs of Spearmint and if you wish, lemon slices.

 

To Make Stevia Tea:

Pour one cup of boiling water over two handfuls of Stevia leaves.  Let them steep for 10 minutes or longer.  Add the Stevia tea to your tea until it suits your taste.

 

To Make Sugar Syrup:

Into a saucepan put 1 1/4 cups of sugar and 3/4 cup of water. Bring to boil, stirring constantly until the sugar is dissolved.  Then, boil the mixture for 5 minutes. Cool and store in the refrigerator until you’re ready to use it.

 

We hope you’ll enjoy the refreshing taste of mint during the hot days of summer.

 

 

Update to Our Herb and Vegetable Gardens

June 26, 2012

 

The Herb Garden in June 2012

 

We have had a really good spring for getting our herb and vegetable gardens started.  They have really thrived because of the cool days and many rains that we’ve had.  The herbs have grown remarkably well.  Below is a picture that shows the progress of the herb garden. Having fresh herbs is a real joy!

Lemon Thyme in Bloom

 

Of course the thymes have come along very slowly. Typically thymes do grow slowly at first.  The lemon thyme that has been growing in the garden since 2006 came back, spread and is now thriving with many blooms.

French Thyme Flowering

 

The new French Thyme that we planted this spring has done really well.  It is blooming too.  I am looking forward to having the fresh herb, thyme, in many of our dishes this summer and fall.  We will harvest and dry some of these herbs as well.  Then, before the first killing frost this fall, we will take a part of the thyme plants from the garden and put them in pots for some fresh thyme indoors during the winter.

Oregano and Garlic Chives in Front. Parsley on the Left and French Sorrel on the Right, Behind Them.

 

This spring we have been able to pick garlic chives, fresh lettuce and French Sorrel from the herb garden.  All have been delicious in fresh garden salads that we’ve made.  The French Sorrel adds a slight “bite” to the bland lettuce leaves because of its acidic flavor.  And the garlic chives add a garlic and light onion flavor.

The Lettuce, the Tallest Plant in the Back is Bolting. It Is Growing a Flower Stalk.

 

Due to the days getting warmer, the lettuce has bolted and will soon be done for the season.  The French Sorrel is bolting too, but we will cut the bolting stalk from the French Sorrel plant so that it will keep producing its fresh, large, tasty herbal leaves.

Two Plants of Sweet Basil Ready to Harvest.

 

With the weather warming up, some of the other herbs have grown very fast.  The fresh herb, Sweet Basil is a case in point.  There are four in the herb garden.  Two of them are thriving and one is struggling.

 

We plan to pick some of this fresh herb to have with fresh tomato and Mozzarella cheese, a great appetizer or summer meal.  Or we may use it to make pesto, a delicious Italian recipe for spaghetti or linguini.  We also love to use basil in spaghetti sauces as well.

Potted Basil Plants — Sweet Basil Left and Center, Bush Basil on the Right.

 

We will save some of the basil for use during the winter as well.  It can be harvested and stored for later use as a fresh herb, or dried as well.  The problem with the dried herb is that it loses a lot of its flavor.  So, we may try storing it as a fresh herb, a technique that we just learned about.  We’ll tell you more about this method in a later blog.  In addition, I have potted some basil for use this winter.

The Arugula Has Bolted and Is Blooming. The White Flowers on the Right.

 

The Italian herb/salad vegetable, Arugula has bolted too.  Yet its blossoms are pretty, so we’ve left it alone.  It will have to be pulled out soon to make room for the dill which has started to bloom.  We’re hoping to pinch back the blooms on one or two of the dill plants so that we can continue to harvest its tasty leaves.

A Beautiful Dill Flower.

 

The coriander/cilantro plant has grown into its bloom stage.  Soon, there will be coriander seeds developing.  The leaves, of course, are called cilantro and are used extensively in cooking, especially in Mexican and Asian dishes.  Many coriander plants bolt quickly, and that is what ours did.  Have you ever tried a bit of ground coriander in your homemade apple pies?  If not, keep it in mind the next time you’re making an apple pie and sprinkle some coriander over the apple filling.  It really improves the flavor of the pie.

The White Flowers of the Coriander (also known as Cilantro).

 

The topsy-turvy tomato plants have grown, but so far have produced only two tomatoes.  One of the two tomatoes started to rot and had to be discarded.  The other one is alright.  I check them daily to see if there are any blooms, but so far we have not seen any.  On the other hand, the two tomato plants in the herb garden are thriving and starting to produce bloom now.  They are doing much better than the topsy-turvy plants.

The Topsy-Turvy Tomato Plants.

 

Our mint is doing well.  All of the mints in the herb garden are thriving.  We have many kinds from spearmint and peppermint to chocolate mint and orange mint.  The spearmint and peppermint are located in a separate garden with the monarda didyma or bergamot (Oswego Tea).  The spearmint really adds “zip” to iced tea.  You make regular tea, then spearmint tea and mix the two together for a really refreshing summer drink.

Our Spearmint.

 

Peppermint is used in a good many candy recipes.  However, it is also very good when made into a special sauce that is used with lamb.  A traditional Sunday dinner in Wales would not be the same without lamb and this peppermint sauce.

Our Peppermint.

 

The other mints are thriving as well – the Chocolate Mint, the Hillary Lemon Mint and the Orange Mint.  Our Boston Terrier, Poppy, must have had an upset tummy the day these pictures were taken because we caught her eating some of the mint.

Poppy Eating Some of Our Mint,

 

One of the highlights of our herb growing season is the blooming of the monarda didyma or bergamot (Oswego Tea).  This herb is now in full bloom, and it is gorgeous.  Here are two pictures of it.  The first shows the whole monarda planting.

Monarda didyma or Bergamot in Full Bloom.

 

And the second shows a monarda plant bloom close up.

A Close-Up Shot of Bergamot Blooms.

 

The vegetable garden is thriving.  The squash has ballooned in size and dominates the garden.  Yet, the eggplant, peppers, beans, peas and watermelon are all thriving as well.  On the other hand, the spinach and onions, which were both started from seeds are struggling.

Our Vegetable Garden.

 

Then, there are the potted herbs.  We brought my oldest rosemary plant and lemon grass outside from their winter quarters on our sun porch.  Also, we brought the new Bay tree outside, which we purchased this past spring.  In addition, we potted some herb plants that we had purchased to grow and bring indoors when the weather gets too cold for anything to grow.  These included Mexican tarragon, French tarragon, lemon verbena and another rosemary plant.  And finally, we planted Sweet Basil in two pots so that we’ll continue to have a fresh supply of it throughout the summer.

Some of Our Potted Herb Plants.

 

Last, but not the least, is a picture of the Mexican Tarragon.  It is not a true tarragon, but it is used to flavor dishes where French Tarragon cannot be grown.  It is a delightful plant with beautiful, small, bright-yellow flowers.

Our Mexican Tarragon in Full Bloom.

 

We have been mostly successful with our plant and growing.  And we’ve even had some good harvests.  So, we’ll keep you updated on our successes and failures throughout the growing season and through the winter months as well.

 

 

 

 

Our Activities on Father’s Day

June 20, 2012

 

 

A Copy or the Big Flag Star Spangled Banner

 

This past Sunday was Father’s Day.  Also, there was a huge event happening in Baltimore.  Called the Star-Spangled Sailabration it actually commemorated three events: 1.) the War of 1812; 2.) the Victory of the U.S. Military Forces successfully defending Fort McHenry from a major attack by British Naval Forces; and 3.) the writing of “The Star Spangled Banner” by Francis Scott Key.  Here is a link to the Sailabration website if you want to learn more about it:

 

http://starspangled200.com/index.php

A Columbian Tall Ship

 

The ships arrived in Baltimore on Wednesday, June 13th and departed on the following Tuesday, June 19th.  There were many events scheduled for the public on each of these days, primarily in downtown Baltimore around the Inner Harbor and Fells Point.

 

Another Tall Ship

 

Fort McHenry was prominent in this celebration.  There were events at the fort because it is, after all the Fort McHenry National Monument and Historic Shrine.  The flag at the fort was the subject of Francis Scott Key’s The Star Spangled Banner, which he conceived during the bombardment of the fort by the British Navy during the War of 1812.  Today the flag that Key saw flying during the bombardment has been cleaned and preserved by the Smithsonian Institution in Washington, D.C.  And it is on display for public viewing there.

 

 

An Aerial View of the Location of Fort McHenry

 

The U.S. Navy was well represented at the Sailabration.  It had ships docked for touring by the public.  And there were many naval midshipmen from the U.S. Naval Academy in Annapolis present as well as naval officers, sailors and marines.  In addition, the U.S. Navy’s Blue Angels presented a spectacular aerial show Saturday and Sunday.

 

An Aerial View of Fort McHenry

 

Two of my children and their spouses, four of my grandchildren and I decided to travel to Baltimore to participate in the Sailabration and see the tall ships, ships, and vessels on display in the various harbors.  It was a beautiful day and there were many people visiting the tall ships, ships and the other vessels.

Grandson Vin on the Bridge of the Army Corps of Engineers Vessel

 

We visited three ships and the Seven Foot Knoll Lighthouse.  The first ship we visited was a National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) research vessel.  The second ship we visited was the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers debris removing vessel.

 

Seven Foot Knoll Lighthouse Built in 1856

 

Then we visited the light house.  The Seven Foot Knoll Lighthouse was built in 1856 to mark a shoal at the mouth of the Patapsco River.  It was moved to Baltimore’s Inner Harbor in 1988 and donated to the city in 1989.  It is preserved as a historic landmark, and is very interesting to see.

 

Gangplank to the Huasteco

 

And the last ship we visited was a Mexican vessel ARA Huasteco.  It was getting late, and the line was long, but moving fairly fast.  Then a young Mexican Naval Officer stopped and motioned to us to follow him.  We did, and he took us to the head of the line where we boarded and toured the Huasteco.  It was a large grey-hull ship, very clean and all the sailors and officers looked great in their immaculate white uniforms.  It was a great end to a long and eventful day.

 

The Mexican ship Huasteco

 

 

 

Starting Our Herb and Vegetable Gardens

May 31, 2012

 

A View of the Herb Garden on May 31, 2012

In the spring of this year, when I decided to start this affiliate marketing business, I thought we should clean out the herb garden and start fresh with new plants.  The reason for our thinking was due to the extended illness of my late wife, I simply did not have the time, nor the inclination to do anything with the herb garden since 2008.

 

After a long illness, my wife died in August of 2011.  I spent a very lonely fall and winter.  Many friends suggested that I keep busy as a means of dealing with the lonely life, and I took this advice to heart.  I decided to start a home-based internet business, and to restart my herb garden.  This website and all the information it contains are the results of my starting an online business.  And what follows is an account of starting the new herb garden with some photos of it.

 

Thus, in the early spring of 2012, I had the debris removed from the herb garden.  Then, we worked on getting rid of many unwanted bronze fennel, catnip, and garlic chive volunteer plants that were growing like weeds.  After the garden was cleared we went to Alloway Creek Garden and Herb Farm in Littlestown, Pennsylvania.  We bought not only a large selection of herbs, but also some vegetables as well.  Included were two tomato plants for two Topsy-Turvey tomato planters I had.

 

Two Grandsons Helping to Plant the Garden

My two grandchildren and their mother, my daughter, planted the herbs in the herb garden.  We also created a small raised-bed vegetable garden the following weekend with help from my son’s wife.

 

The Vegetable Garden

Both the herb garden and the vegetable garden have been doing very well.  We planted some leaf lettuce, French sorrel, and arugula (also known as rocket) in the herb garden.  Last weekend we picked some of each.  My daughter washed and dried them, then divided them up for salads.  I ate some of them that night, and they were very good

 

We’ve planted basil, French tarragon, salad burnet, several different kinds of mint, dill, Mexican tarragon, lovage, many different kinds of sage, several different kinds of thyme, summer savory, winter savory, chervil, oregano, parsley and chives.  Also, I am in the process of potting some basil, rosemary, French tarragon, stevia, lemon verbena, horehound and par-cel.  And finally, I have one angelica plant to put somewhere in my back yard.

 

A Close-Up Look at the Herb Garden May 31, 2012

As far as vegetables, we have peppers, tomatoes, eggplant, beans, squash, spinach, onions, and watermelon.  Many of these are in the small vegetable garden.  But there are some peppers and two tomato plants in the herb garden.  Two tomato plants are the result of the top of one of the plants we purchased breaking off.  I quickly took the two pieces that broke off and put them into some rooting medium and kept them moist until they rooted.  Then, later, they were transplanted to the herb garden.  Meanwhile, the two tomato plants we purchased were put into the two Topsy-Turvey planters and are thriving.

 

This should be a fruitful gardening year, and we’ll keep you updated.