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Tisane – an infusion or decoction or herbs, spices or other plant material in hot water.
A tisane conjurers visions of delicacy and elegant refinement and seems a more enchanting invitation than the offer of a cup of herbal tea. It is strange that the interchange of one term for another can create an entirely different impression. Herbal tea still carries a medicinal whiff and a suspicion that it will be a dark green, evil tasting concoction. In contrast a tisane is light, refreshing and if it does not heal the body it will sooth the spirit.
Plants are integral to traditional and alternative medicine and in the modern pharmacopoeia many modern drugs are either derived from plants or synthesised from botanical compounds. So a glass of herbal tea might aid your digestion, help you relax, assuage the fevered brow, or even contain the elixir of eternal youth and if not, it can be enjoyed as a refreshing drink on a hot afternoon, a pleasant end to a good meal or a healthy start to the day.
The best tisanes are made with fresh leaves and water that has almost reached boiling point. The time for the infusion depends on personal taste and the strength of the herb. Delicate herbs like lemon verbena are left for the mere twinkling of an eye, mint and sage for a minute or two and ginger or fennel seeds about 5 minutes. A sliver of lemon or lime, a spoonful of honey can add to the pleasure and remove the lingering medicinal association. If you miss the caffeine kick, try a rosemary infusion to start the day. This is not for the timid and is reputed to be a reliable hangover cure.
On the next sultry afternoon when reduced to somnolence in the garden try a light infusion of sage with a sliver of lime and a tiny teaspoon of honey as an alternative to a cup of Earl Grey. Not as good as Pimms, but scores points with the Health Police!
These are the first sweet peas to be grown in the croft garden. Sweet peas are one of my nostalgia plants and this year I decided that I would try to grow a small number just for the pleasure of having a handful of these beautifully perfumed, delicate flowers in a glass.
The seeds were sown in the spring in cardboard tubes in the polytunnel and planted in the fruit cage in May. The first flowers were just appearing when the weather changed. As usual it was rather windier than forecast and by Friday morning my lovely plants were in a tangled heap. Fortunately they were not damaged and were soon back upright albeit in a corset of green twine. Not elegant but effective.
I have to admit that this is partially my fault, as I didn’t read the instructions on the packet “tie the stem into your framework on a regular basis”. I also now understand why it is necessary to “remove the climbing tendrils as they grow” as the flower stems are more roller-coaster than vertical! However, life is definitely too short for removing tendrils to create the perfect sweet pea stem!
If you are wondering why my Venetian Glass looks like a special offer from the local supermarket rather than a product of the glass blowers of Murano, you are correct, it’s pedigree is not distinguished! A little lateral thinking arrives at Venetian sweet pea mix which comprises three old-fashioned, highly scented varieties Matucana, Lord Nelson and Black Knight. Now that is a distinguished trio with a very superior pedigree.