I know few better ways to start the day than by wandering into the garden on a misty August morning to collect herbs for breakfast tea. This is a pleasure I discovered one long summer long ago in the first herb garden I planted as a teenager. Adult responsibilities can push youthful sensuality and mindfulness out of the way, but with maturity these rituals return. This year, for the first time in many, I have a growing, healthy collection of herbs to support this habit.
Often I pick only one or two sprigs to add to a morning pot of green tea. Sometimes I collect a handful to blend their varied flavours. In the photo above (centre, then clockwise from left) are lemon verbena, lavender, anise hyssop, peppermint, wild bergamot, pineapple sage and lemon balm.
None of their flavours require explanation except perhaps the bergamot. Many gardeners are familiar with its close relative, bee balm (Monarda didyma), with scarlet flowers that attract bees and hummingbirds. This M. fistulosa is a native species with pale lilac flowers. It was the first wildflower I ever grew from collected seeds, but that also was long ago. The seed for this plant came from Richters Herbs last spring. It’s a perennial and won’t bloom until next year. It would make a good addition to a meadow garden.
Members of the Monarda genus are called bergamot because their flavour resembles the bergamot orange, a Mediterranean citrus fruit used to flavour Earl Grey. Tea made from these herbs bears a good similarity.
Pineapple sage tastes more pine than apple, but its fruity fragrance adds a slightly, pleasantly bitter character to an herbal mixture.
Lemon verbena, lavender, mint and lemon balm can also grow well in containers. Anise hyssop and pineapple sage are shrubby and need a lot of room for their roots. I’m trying to grow wild bergamot in a pot this year, and so far it’s doing well.
Here’s a bonus August morning photo of our neighbours’ lovely back deck and planters.