Fresh is Best
Iced tea essentials: Michigan mint and Meyer lemons
The ideal iced tea requires the essence of homegrown mint and a squeeze of lemon. Here, tips for top-notch tea:
• On mint: James E. Crosby founded his Crosby Mint Farm in St. Johns (Clinton County) in 1912; it’s now the oldest continuously operated mint farm in the United States. Head out for an adventurous day trip to the farm to purchase fresh mint (or go to peppermintjim.com). Consider timing your mint farm visit with the 30th Annual St. Johns Mint Festival, Aug. 8–10.
• On lemons: “Meyer lemons are a cross between traditional lemons and Mandarin oranges,” explains Joe Santoro, senior produce buyer at Nino Salvaggio International Marketplace’s three locations in St. Clair Shores, Clinton Township, and Troy. “Chefs prefer to use them because they’re sweeter and less acidic than a traditional lemon.” — Giuseppa Nadrowski
New book is steeped with grow-your-own tips
ICED TEA ON A SUMMER’S DAY in Michigan is as satisfying as hot cocoa in winter. And with the many great tea recipes available today, it’s fun to experiment with different types and flavors. Think hibiscus, mint, honey, and ginger — all inventive ingredients that add a twist to classic iced tea.
If you really want to try something different, though, consider growing your own tea. In Homegrown Tea: An Illustrated Guide to Planting, Harvesting, and Blending Teas and Tisanes (St. Martin’s Press, 2014, available at Barnes & Noble), Cassie Liversidge tells readers how to plant, grow, and harvest their own tea plants — turning their windowsill or backyard into a luscious tea garden.
Throughout the book’s colorful pages, Liversidge outlines the nutritional benefits of each tea, demonstrates how to prepare and optimally brew each tea plant, and teaches how to properly dry and store tea.
There’s also advice on how to make sun teas — tempting recommendations for this time of year.
Beautifully illustrated with more than 250 color photographs, the book also includes recipes for drinks crafted from many well-known plants like rose hips, mint, sage, and hibiscus.
We caught up with Liversidge after one of her many days in the garden to ask her to share tips on growing tea here in the Great Lakes State.
To grow the tea plant (Camellia sinensis; all tea is made from this plant) in Michigan’s climate, Liversidge recommends finding a part-shaded area in the garden, “as a south-facing position may be a little too hot,” she notes.
“(These plants) like to be kept moist, so help them during the summer months by mulching with a thick layer of bark around their base.” This will also help to keep the soil pH down, as Camellia likes it at about pH 5 or less.
Because temperatures in the winter drop below 14 degrees, Liversidge recommends wrapping the plants with a horticultural fleece.
“Deer love to eat the Camellia,” she adds, “so protect your plants with a wire barrier if necessary.” — Megan Swoyer