Thursday, May 14, 2009

Fresh Herb Tisane - a year of food by the season

Mint is one of my favs and and I use it in many ways. I do love to make a fast and easy fresh mint tisane. A tisane is a hot tea-like beverage that does not contain any of the various plants from the tea family. Herbal tisane is a caffeine- free alternative to tea.

I spoke about the virtues of mint in an earlier blog. It can help improve digestion, is relaxing and helps you sleep better. More free food just outside your door!

To make a tisane you basically pick your fresh herbs and wash under cold running water. I pop them into a tea pot and cover with boiling water and then steep for 5-10 minutes. I use about 1 cup (250 ml) herbs for a quart/liter of water. I like my mint tea plain but you can add some local honey if you wish.

Some sources tell you to pick herbs in the morning when the dew is present and although I do use this approach I also pick them anytime I need them!! The cold water wash isn't essential but it helps to remove some of the surface dirt that clings to the herb. If you don't wash your herbs first you will see a small amount of sediment at the bottom of your cup when you are done. Small amounts of local dirt are healthy to eat as they contain trace minerals your body requires for chemical reactions in your body! How locavore is that! Local dirt. Our dirt provides minute amounts of boron, copper, silicon and other essential minerals.

Culinary herbs that go well in tisanes include basil, lemon balm (Melissa), parsley, thyme and sage. The mint and lemon balm are sweet herbs but you should use less of the stronger ones like parsley and sage. You can combine herbs to make your own concoction. I often add edible flowers like bergamot (bee balm), pansy and violet. You can even add crushed garlic to tea if you need a heart healthy, anti-bacterial boost.

Join me for a gourmet cooking class at Chapman's Landing Cooking Studio in Nipissing village. On June 6th we will be working with garden herbs to make tasty herb vinegars, oils, dressing and marinades.

© Nancy Guppy, RD, MHSc
My class calendar, menus and more information is posted at my website.

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