There are all kinds of edible gardens out there: herb gardens, pizza gardens, salsa gardens, cocktail gardens. If you are a fan of refreshing summer drinks, then consider planting a beverage garden that will allow you to create refreshing potions at home. Start with these suggestions for beverage garden plants.
Also known as German chamomile (Matricaria recutita), this is the happy flower that yields a soothing tea. Give plants a sunny spot with well-drained soil. Harvest blooms when fully open, and dry for the most concentrated flavor. For tea, steep 1 teaspoon of dried chamomile flowers in 1 cup of boiling water. If using freshly harvested flowers, plan on twice the amount.
A favorite among dieters, stevia is super easy to grow. Provide it protection from our hot afternoon sun. Pinch plants early in the season several times to encourage branching. Pick the super sweet leaves of this herb for drying or fresh use. For best results, dry in a dehydrator or a 150-degree oven. To use, crush dry leaves as needed. Since we have a milder winter, these plants may overwinter with mulch and come right back in Spring.
Rewarding and easy to grow, Meyer lemon (Citrus x meyeri) is prized by chefs for its intense flavor. It adapts well to growing in pots. In cold snaps, shift containers indoors since it can’t take low temperatures. Keep plants in a too-small rather than a too-large pot for best growth. Most importantly, allow soil to dry out between waterings to avoid root problems. Meyer lemons offer a sweeter juice, less acid and a thinner peel than other lemons. Use it for lemonade, dropped into water or to season the rim of glasses.
Despite the name and some online reviews, chocolate peppermint doesn’t taste or smell strongly like chocolate. It bears more resemblance to a chocolate after dinner mint—a hint of chocolate and mint. Use leaves fresh or dried to flavor water or tea. The flavor is best when leaves are harvested before the plant flowers.
The refreshing leaves of mint can be chewed solo, added to flavor water or any beverage, and used crushed to create a Mojito cocktail! Mint typical takes over an area in full sun, so keep that in mind when selecting to add it to your beverage garden vs its own container.
‘Vaniglia Sanguigno’ is an acidless sweet orange (Citrus sinensis) with a pale pink flesh that has a hint of vanilla. This blood orange is easy to grow, doing best with bright light and temps above 60 F. Watch for flowers in late winter and spring; fertilize lightly through summer. Fruit ripens through fall and winter.
Grow pineapple sage (Salvia elegans) as a perennial. It flowers late in the season, but the red blossoms are worth the wait. They beckon hummingbirds heading south for the winter and also carry a lovely pineapple flavor. Leaves are flavorful, too, with tender young leaves packing the best aroma and taste. Use pineapple sage in water, lemonade, punch or tea.
Also known as Arabian tea jasmine, Sambac Jasmine (Jasminum sambac) is usually raised for its perfumed blooms. The blossoms also make a refreshing flavored water. Simply place flowers in cold water, refrigerate overnight, and drink in the morning. This jasmine thrives indoors or out, although it’s only winter hardy in our zone. Indoors, keep it in a bright southern window with temps above 65 F. ‘Maid of Orleans’ grows into a shrub form. Prune as needed to control and direct growth.