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Rich pickings & time for tea

The garden really comes to fruition during August, and few treats beat the warmth of sunshine on the back of your neck as you savour the sweetness of freshly plucked raspberries and blackcurrants. One that comes close is the opportunity to pick a fresh handful of deep crimson dahlias, bunched with some airy umbels of bright green dill and white Queen Anne's lace, together with a few stems of lime green nicotiana and bright yellow rudbeckia. Beautiful! Flowers do so much to lift our spirits and brighten our homes. Indeed, as the great American botanist Luther Burbank said, “Flowers always make people better, happier, and more helpful; they are sunshine, food and medicine for the soul.”

Flowers picked from the garden

Speaking of which, volunteer Barbara Wallace has written the following account of her recent experiences around our garden:

“Vegetables, fruits, herbs and flowers grow in glorious abundance at The Garden Gate. As the seasons lead us through the year, we are keen to explore the tastes as well as the sights and smells the garden offers us. Over the last few months we have been making delicious fresh, herbal teas. Our current favourites are mint and lemon verbena – sometimes a mixture of the two! It’s so easy… we just put a few leaves in a cup with some freshly boiled water and let it brew for a few minutes and enjoy. A cafetiere is put to good use if we’re making several cups at once.”

Mel enjoying a cafetiere of herbal tea

“As we got excited about what other flavours we might make, a new project began to take shape to dry some herbs and flowers to make tea blends. Last year, Vitality4Life donated an electric dehydrator to enhance the work of the garden. Thanks to this great gift we can preserve our leaves and petals and make our teas throughout the year. Focusing on our favourites we have grown lots of extra Spearmint, Moroccan Mint and Lemon Verbena. Once the leaves are washed, they are laid out on wire grids and placed in the dehydrator. All electrical appliances at the garden run on solar energy so the dehydrator can be set on a low temperature for several hours to slowly dry out the herbs without any cost. Some herbs and flowers will be air dried in our polytunnels too. The latest tea is made using calendula petals, which are very pretty and delicately flavoured. The petals are lovely scattered on salads too.”

Herbs laid out on wire grids for drying in dehydrator

“Those who follow these monthly stories will know that The Garden Gate has a pizza oven. We now have plans to create our own pizza herb mix! Oregano, basil, bay, sage, rosemary, parsley, thyme. It’ll be great fun to mix the herbs and taste the blends to get the one we like best. As we looked around the garden, we realised that there are at least 30 different leaves, flowers and fruits that we can use to make delicious herbal infusions. I wonder what we’ll make next, fennel tea anyone?”

A jar of dried bay leaves

Thanks to Barbara for that, and finally this month we have some new arrivals and a departure to announce. Earlier in the year we enrolled in the government Kickstart Scheme and now have Charley and Scott employed in the garden for the next 6 months, during which they'll gain experience in horticulture, art and crafts and social care. And we would all like to wish a very happy retirement to staff member David Homewood, after 14 years of greatly appreciated hard work and wonderful contribution to the camaraderie of the garden.

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