Sunday, July 31, 2011

Local Tomatoes, Bread and Homemade Beebalm Tea

Summers in North Carolina bring both laments and blessings. This week, the main topic of conversation was the extreme heat (104 degrees on Friday). But the heat didn't stop the cherry tomatoes from continuing to produce, or keep the farmers from the market Saturday. With pleasure this evening, we realized our entire meal was made of locally produced food. 


The salad includes cherry tomatoes we grew, plus tomatoes, green beans, eggplant, cucumber and red onion from the farmer's market. The tomatoes, beans and onion were so full of flavor that we didn't need a salad dressing. The bread was made by a man who buys organic whole wheat from local farmers. He bakes the bread in a wood-fired oven in his dining room and even splits his own wood. He hauls his loaves of bread to market on a cart towed behind his bike. The bread not only has a low carbon footprint, but is delicious. (Some day I'll write a post on the Carrboro Farmer's Market. It's one of the treats of living in this community, having access to tasty local produce, all grown within 50 miles of Carrboro.)

I am proud of the iced tea, my first attempt ever at homemade tea. I've read many times that the Indians used to make tea from beebalm leaves, but never got around to making any until this year. Since the beebalm patch is outgrowing its bounds, I was able to combine harvesting with weeding. A brief Google search turned up a recipe that was ridiculously easy.
  • Strip leaves from monarda right before or right after bloom.
  • Lay leaves flat to dry for three days.
  • Crumble leaves.
Here is how the leaves looked after three days.


Since our summers are so humid, the leaves didn't dry completely, so I put them in the oven on low temperature for about 10 minutes. It was fun to crumble them. It's hard to describe the taste of the tea - it's fragrant with a mild, refreshing taste.


I'd love to hear about teas you've made from plants in your garden. Now that I know how easy it is, I'm inspired to make more herbal teas. 

11 comments :

pumpkydine said...

Ummmm Ummmm Ummmm! Hard to beat those fresh grown veggies. There is just something about the flavor! Thanks for the bee balm tea instructions. I will have to give it a try sometime.

Stacy said...

What a delicious-looking meal, and what a feat to have it all grown so close to you! "Local" here tends to mean a much greater distance, since so little of the state is arable--closer to 200 miles (or more). I get worried when I see the farmlands along the river being sold for housing developments. Where else will the water for local crops come from?

Your tea sounds refreshing! My own favorite is plain old mint--so cooling on hot days. Put 3 or 4 cleaned fresh sprigs in a quart-sized Mason jar, fill the jar halfway with boiling water, after five minutes top off the jar with cool water, and refrigerate. I don't bother removing the mint sprigs, because I think they look pretty.

Bridget said...

My fave tea is Lemon Verbena from a plant which is growing in the polytunnel. I dry it in the Summer and then get a Summer flashback when I drink it in Winter.

Sheila said...

pumpkydine, there is no comparison with local and fresh. I refuse buy grocery store tomatoes because of their pathetic lack of taste, so this time of year we indulge.

Stacy, we are fortunate to live near so much farmland - and to have a community that is willing to support small farmers. Thanks for the mint tea recipe. I'll have to try it. Unfortunately, at the moment, the mint has powdery mildew. I wish I knew of a way to prevent that - it seems to happen every year.

Bridget, lemon verbena tea sounds good. I wonder if I could overwinter it indoors? Hmm ..

gardenwalkgardentalk.com said...

I am not a tea drinker, but your meal looks delish!

Donna said...

The Native Amercians in my area were known for this tea and I have never attempted it but definitely will now...lovely

Hanni said...

Beebalm tea sounds great! I've never made homemade tea, either, but you make it sound so easy...I have tons of bee balm, too...hmmm.... :)

HolleyGarden said...

We've been trying to eat local, too. You're right - so much more flavor! Although, I've never made my own tea. Thanks for the how-to post.

PlantPostings said...

Beebalm tea! I had no idea! We try to eat local food as much as possible. We can't stick to it as easily in the wintertime. But in the summer we have a CSA share and grow some of our own veggies. They're so flavorful! Cheers!

Karin / Southern Meadows said...

Your supper looks amazing! Bee Balm tea sounds very interesting. Thanks for the instructions. I will have to try this. I am always up for trying new things. I am looking forward to your post on your local farmers' market.

Sheila Read said...

Thanks for all the comments! It's nice to hear that so many of you are trying to eat local, too ...