Do you have a tea plant? If so, or if you're even thinking about getting one, I highly recommend you get yourself a copy of "Homegrown Tea" by Cassie Liversidge. I recently got a review copy in the mail and have found it a wonderfully helpful book, a must-read for the tea-lover who is also a gardening enthusiast. The first pages of the book cover how to grow the tea plant, camellia sinensis, and how to take cuttings, something I'd like to master myself. Once the tea plant is mature, the book tells how to process the leaves at home to create your own white, green and black tea.
The book also includes chapters on making teas and tisanes from many herbs and flowers. Here is a painting (and the paintings are also by the author) of three kinds of thyme, including one I want simply because of the name: Lemon Curd Thyme! Who knew? Liversidge describes the medicinal benefits of each plant as well as how to grow it, harvest it, and store the leaves or flowers. She includes the Latin name of each variety and recommends using it when shopping for plants, because some plants with similar sounding names may not in fact be safe to consume.
The fun of reading any gardening book is that I always learn about something new. While I learned lots of new things in this book, I was quite surprised that I've never before heard of Sweet Tea Vine. A native of China and Southeast Asia, this plant was studied for its use as an alternative sweetener, but scientists also learned something else. "In the leaves," says Liversidge, "they found special compounds called saponins, known to benefit the immune system. There are many more saponins in Gynostemma (Sweet Tea Vine) than in ginseng, and it is often referred to as 'poor man's ginseng.'" If you're growing your own camellia sinensis or have any interest at all in making your own herbal teas, this is definitely the book to get!