Homegrown Herbs and Fruits Let You Drink Your Yard

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| Originally Published: May 20, 2015

drinkable garden

You’ve probably heard of growing edibles in your garden, but what about drinkables? Many herbs and fruits are not only good to eat, but they can enhance the flavor of your drinks too. This isn’t a new concept, but it’s seen a resurgence in popularity lately that I think is related to interest in craft foods and beverages. It’s a natural extension of the trend toward growing some of your own food.

A Drinkable Garden

You don’t have to have a 200-acre vineyard to enjoy a sip of nature from your backyard. In fact, you don’t even need a yard. Almost all herbs will thrive in containers as well as a few fruits.

Three Drink-Worthy Herbs

All three of these herbs are perennial, so they will come back in your garden every year.

Lavender: Lavender requires full sun, good air circulation and well-drained soil. I have the best luck growing this fragrant herb in a container with a mix of one-third sand, one-third soil and one-third compost. Before planting, I toss a few pieces of broken terra cotta pot in the bottom of the container to improve the drainage even more. Lavender requires little feeding. Apply an all-purpose fertilizer in early spring as new growth emerges. It is also a good idea to lightly prune them at this time to keep them in shape.

Mint: Mints prefer humus rich, consistently moist soil and full sun to partial shade. Apply a layer of mulch to keep the roots cool and the ground evenly moist. Mint is evergreen in zones 8 and warmer. It will die back in winter in zones 7 and lower, but return the following spring. Unless I want it to take over an area, I plant it in a 1-gallon nursery pot and bury the pot.

Thyme: Thyme is a perennial herb that produces small leaves on wiry stems. The savory flavor is well suited for citrus drinks. Plant thyme in spring after the last frost date in an area that receives full sun. Work a slow-release fertilizer into the soil at planting time; repeat every spring. Thyme resents being wet. A layer of gravel around the plant will keep the leaves off saturated soil. Thyme appreciates a yearly trim. Do this every spring right after the last frost date. Cut back by one-third or just above where you see new growth.

drinkable garden

Three Fruits You Can Grow in Containers

You can grow fresh fruit for drinks right on your patio.

Strawberries: Plant strawberries in spring as soon as the soil is workable. If a late frost is predicted, protect the blooms with a frost blanket or newspaper. Feed with an all-purpose fertilizer in spring and again in later summer. You can select either June bearing or everbearing varieties. June bearing produce once in early summer, and everbearing will fruit once in early summer and again in fall.

Dwarf Meyer Lemon: Lemon trees prefer well-drained soil and plenty of sunshine. Once a month during the growing season, feed citrus with a fertilizer that is specially formulated for citrus. To ensure pollination, hand-pollinate the blooms. Just brush pollen from the stamens onto the center of each flower. Bring your tree indoors in autumn at the same time you bring in houseplants to protect them from freezing temperatures (in the case of Meyer lemons, below 26 degrees).

Dwarf Raspberries: Raspberries are further divided into summer bearing and everbearing (fall bearing) types. Summer bearing produce for about a month, and everbearing produce once in summer and again in fall. If you live in an area with hot summers, choose a raspberry variety that is known to be heat-tolerant. Dwarf, thornless raspberry varieties are especially suited for containers. Plant the canes in early spring, and place the container in a spot that receives full sun. Use a light, well-draining commercial potting soil. Fertilize in spring and again in May with an all-purpose solution.

Three Ways to Put Herbs in Your Drinks

Infusion: An infusion is made by steeping botanicals in water or alcohol. Tea and flavored waters are examples of infusions. You can jazz up plain water by infusing it with fruits and herbs. Put cold water in a large vessel. Slightly mash fruit to release its juices, bruise the leaves of fresh herbs to release their natural extracts, and throw them in the water. Chill in the fridge for an hour, and then strain. (Steep longer for stronger flavor.) Combinations are endless; try lemon thyme or strawberry basil.

Shrub: This is a vinegar-based syrup that was popular in Colonial America. To make a shrub, fill a jar with fruit and add enough vinegar to cover. Steep the mix for a day or two, strain and add a sweetener. Cook the liquid to reduce and thicken. You can mix shrubs with plain water or soda water for a tasty drink.

Simple Syrup: Simple syrups are used for all manner of concoctions. Simmer equals parts water and sugar until the sugar dissolves. Add flavor with fresh herbs or fruit. I love to infuse a simple syrup with lavender to use in lemonades and other beverages.

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