Italians love to get herbs for free, and they use them everywhere: they sneak them into meat, fish, pastas, soups, teas... EVERYWHERE.
It must be part of the Italian heritage trying to get by and to live with what's on the land.
Italians love foraging and there is something addictive about that. The fresh air, the colours of the countryside and the good stuff you take home, make it a very relaxing, therapeutic and pleasant experience.
My dad is one of them. He has been making his own herbal teas for years now. It started as a Sunday afternoon hobby and it turned out to be a "factory-like herbal tea making" at home.
He dries the herbs by leaving them on a cloth for a week or so. Then he takes the leaves off the stalks and mixes them all up. He combines different herbs together depending on how they taste and their properties. Since he began making his own I struggle to enjoy any shop bought ones. None of them will taste as good.
There is something very soothing about having a "tisana" or herbal tea, especially during winter months and they are a blessing if you have a cold! A generous teaspoon of good quality and local honey will make it just perfect, like a medicine.
Two herbs that are easily available at this time of year are thyme and fennel. Thyme is recommended for coughs and bronchitis and fennel for digestive problems. If you don't have a garden you can buy the herbs in supermarkets and dry them yourself or find them dried in health shops. Or what about buying a plant, put it in a large pot and just cutting the herbs as you need them? The plant will grow all the time and ultimately it will be cheaper then buying the herbs every time. Don't forget that you can use them in your cooking too.
Herbal teas have now become fashionable in Italy and some coffee bars will serve many types. They make them look really posh with pretty labels, lots of info about their properties and they are served in beautiful cups. So you think you are going to drink something really special but, sadly, they are miles away from the tisana you could make yourself at home.
We all know that herbs have many healing properties and they can be considered medicines on their own. Have a go at making this simple thyme and fennel tea:
- Prep Time : 2 minutes
- Cook Time : 10 minutes
Put the thyme and fennel seeds in a cup then pour the boiling water over it. Cover up and leave to rest for 10 minutes. Se eve and enjoy.
A good tsp of honey will make this drink very soothing and pleasant.
A comfortable sofa, a good book and a warm blanket will complete it all!
I am entering this into "Herbs on Saturday" hosted by Lavander and Lovage.