Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Mixed Plate: Teatime With Wasabi

One of the benefits of having a garden full of fragrant herbs is you'll most likely wind up with excess, which can certainly be used in a pesto sauce, but I wanted to try something different: oven-drying aromatics and making custom mixes of herbal teas!

Call me Ms. T, where the T stands for... well, Tea - Photo by Wasabi Prime

Admittedly, this has been a longterm project that I've been working with since early spring -- our lemon balm and mint perked up and really went crazy, so I was snipping leaves from those first. I do regular walks on the trail that runs through Duvall, which has tons of greenery growing wild, including wild roses. My green-thumbed friend, Ms. SSG had talked about using rose hips before, so I started plucking the very heavily scented flowers, along with the buds. After much nitpicky labor, the flowers and buds were cleaned, separated and washed. Everything was put on sheets of parchment paper and dried at the lowest setting on the oven, just around 170 degrees Fahrenheit.

The bright and fresh "before" pics of mint, lemon balm and rose hips - Photos by Wasabi Prime

For small leafy things, it takes maybe three to four hours of low, slow oven drying. The parchment paper is key, as the leaves will definitely want to stick to everything as they dry and my Silpats always feel forever oily and I didn't want that getting into the leaves. Overall, the rose hips were surprisingly strong in terms of flavor; I thought the small handful of dried petals wouldn't yield much, but it definitely added a surprise punch of sweet fragrance. The mint and lemon balm seemed to mellow considerably through the drying process, so for the ratios of flavor, I'd say go heavy with the mint and lemon balm, but light with rose hips. This first batch of home DIY tea was just mint, lemon balm and rose hips, making a pretty mild herbal tea.

OK, get all those t-bag jokes out of your system, I know you want to - Photos by Wasabi Prime

The second attempt had different ingredients -- ginger and citrus rind, along with the same usual minty/lemon balm suspects, although this round yielded rosebuds along with the petals. The warmer temperature was producing smaller flowers and more buds, which I unceremoniously pulled off as many plants as I could. At the risk of getting lots of weird sidelong glances by joggers passing by, I probably plucked a few cups' worth of rosebuds. I had extra ginger and saved the rind from a couple of lemons and an orange, so I loaded up the oven with everything for another drying session. The ginger and citrus rind took longer to fully dry, nearly double the time of the leafy herbs.

Rosy buds and a good use for extra ginger and citrus rind - Photos by Wasabi Prime

This time I put all the ingredients in separate plastic bags, so that I can custom-mix each brew. As the summer gets more into swing, I'm thinking more along the lines of iced teas or even fragrant cocktails and unique seltzers. I'd still brew the mixture of aromatics like a tea, but then chill, flavor with simple syrup or honey and carbonate, or just introduce the herbal elixir to my dear friend vodka. I'm also hoping to stockpile the dried aromatics for beer brewing, as Mr. Wasabi has been feeling the itch to brew again, and many recipes call for citrus rind. The nice thing about drying your own aromatics is once you get that liquid out properly and store it somewhere dry, they'll last quite a while and can have multiple uses.

I'm hoping to get lavender from our garden to have a nice stockpile of it for teas or baking. I'm already dreaming of a rose hip and mint shortbread, or a lemony lavender tea cookie! Stay tuned to see what other experiments come out of Wasabi Kitchen Stadium!

Kampai to ghetto-fabulous herbal teas! - Photo by Wasabi Prime

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  1. I love the photos. Stunning. I also happen to love tea so I am quite enthralled with this post. Thanks for the inspiration. I never thought of making it myself!

  2. Hey Wasabi! I've been remiss in keeping up with your blog but I'm back!! :) Love this post. A bit laborious but seems more than worth the effort. The photos alone are simply stunning.

  3. Wow - this is really fascinating. I've just now gotten into *using* my Japanese tea pot... making my own tea blends is surely more of a distant goal than a near one for me :P

    I'm sure your new friends will get along fine with vodka! And maybe even with one of the more neutral gins...


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