September 11, 2010
Recently, my newly planted lemon verbena plants were “flourishing” almost too much. There were stalks shooting out in every direction, and the whole thing looked a bit unruly. So, I decided to give my plants a little trim (no blow-out needed). I simply snipped the stalks at exactly the same height throughout each plant, leaving me with a bundle of lemon verbena leaves that smelled so delicious, my first instinct was to toss the whole bunch into the bathtub, jump in, and just soak up the delicious scent of the extract. Sadly, on a busy weekday morning, that just wasn’t going to fly.
So, I did the next best thing. I put a big pot on the stove, washed a good-sized fistful of branches, dunked them in a pot of cool water and brought it to boil for 5 minutes until they had steeped. Then I turned off the heat and walked away. After the concoction had cooled, I strained the leaves from the liquid, poured it over, and was rewarded with a batch of incredibly refreshing, beautiful citron-colored iced lemon verbena tea — well, that’s a mouthful. In my mind, it is the absolute perfect drink for a late summer afternoon.
Making this tea was such an easy, spur-of-the-moment thing that turned into something really special. I must be a cheap date (if someone could just convince my husband of this!) because the pure flavors and clean simplicity of this tea almost seemed fancier to me than champagne — well, that’s a slight exaggeration — but if you’re looking for something caffeine-free, uniquely floral and refreshing, this tea is your, well … “cup of tea.” The color alone is reason enough to try it, but the taste is so uniquely floral with a little bit of tang, it really deserves a special presentation. I poured mine into crystal glasses just to show off this elegant tea to its full advantage.
Honestly, it’s incomparable to any iced tea I have ever tried. It is a great caffeine-free alternative to traditional iced tea that adds something unexpected and extra delicious to any party. When I served it at a teacher appreciation luncheon that I hosted for my daughter’s preschool, I garnished it with a sprig of mint and a slice of lemon, but a stalk of lavender or a spray of lemon verbena flowers would work well too.
If you haven’t planted it in your yard, definitely look for it at your farmers market. Before I started growing it, I purchased the leaves from BD of Earthtrine Farms at the Saturday Farmers Market in downtown Santa Barbara (on the corner of Santa Barbara and Cota streets). He also has an amazing selection of unique greens — just look for the guy with the dreads and shop to your heart’s content!