Herbal Essence: Just Add Water by

Issue · Children's Garden · May 29, 2013

Herbal Essence: Just Add Water

Issue · Children's Garden · May 29, 2013

I'm not very good at remembering to drink water. A count of the glasses that I drink on a daily basis often doesn't move beyond two, never mind the eight that's recommended. But like most things, if I put a little bit of effort into the ritual, I find myself taking gulps more regularly.

Whether you're trying to increase your own water intake or impress guests with a fancified version of a classic refreshment, these two herbal waters will elevate drinking water from a mere necessity to a veritable pleasure.

Photographs by Erin Boyle.

herbal waters for late spring, gardenista

While I was visiting my parents in Connecticut over the weekend, I took advantage of their green thumbs and ample herb garden to make two herbal waters that are perfect for late spring. Additions of sweet woodruff, stevia, and strawberry made a sweet thirst quencher, while lovage, lemon balm, and lemon peel made one that was as bright as it was refreshing. 

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herbal waters for late spring, gardenista

To make the first herbal water, I decided on a non-alcoholic riff on the classic German May Wine and gathered sweet woodruff, stevia, and a handful of fresh strawberries.

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herbal waters for late spring, gardenista

Sweet woodruff is a delightful herb that likes to carpet shady spots under trees. I used both the flowers and the leaves in my water.

  herbal waters for late spring, gardenista

After picking a few stems of sweet woodruff from a patch in my parents' yard, I let the flowers wilt a bit before adding water. Wilting makes the slightly sweet scent of the flowers more pronounced.

herbal waters for late spring, gardenista

Next, I harvested a stem of stevia. Stevia is an innocuous-looking herb with a very sweet secret. Often used in a powdered form as a sugar replacement, its leaves can also be used to lend a sweet note to cooking.

herbal waters for late spring, gardenista

To make a quart of water I pinched five or six stevia leaves and slightly bruised them with the back of a wooden spoon to release their essential oils.

herbal waters for late spring, gardenista

The first strawberries of the season are just cropping up in farmers' markets. I added five to a quart of water.

herbal waters for late spring, gardenista

I sliced the strawberries thinly and added them to my quart jar along with the stevia and sweet woodruff. 

herbal waters for late spring, gardenista
 
Covered with fresh water and refrigerated overnight, this water turned a delightful pale pink color. If you're going to serve the water to guests, you might decide to strain the water and add fresh strawberries, as the strawberries will lose some of their color overnight.
 
herbal waters for late spring, gardenista
 
The second recipe: For a brighter, crisper tasting water, I combined lovage, lemon peel, and lemon balm.
 
herbal waters for late spring, gardenista
 
Lovage is one of the first herbs up in the garden and in my experience, it sometimes goes underappreciated. With a sharp, celery-like flavor, I think it's the perfect thing to use to add a little kick to water.
 
herbal waters for late spring, gardenista
 
I used the leafy tops of the lovage stems that I harvested.
 
herbal waters for late spring, gardenista
 
For an extra bite, I carefully cut peels of lemon rind, making sure not to take so much pith that the water would become bitter. With the lemon and all additions to herbal waters, it's a good idea to make sure that you're using materials that haven't been grown with pesticides.
 
herbal waters for late spring, gardenista
 
For good measure (and because I couldn't resist the alliteration), I added a few leaves of lemon balm. As with the stevia, I lightly bruised the lemon balm to help release the plant's essential oils.
 
 
When you're making herbal waters, the possibilities are nearly endless. I like these two versions because they're a little bit unexpected without being totally foreign. Now, how about you? I'd love to hear what you're all adding to your water this time of year. 
 
For another of our favorite herb-infused beverages, see DIY: Lavender Soda.
Looking to make enough for a crowd? See A Glass Decanter for Outdoor Parties.


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