Whew, it’s hot! In an effort to try a “more vintage lifestyle”, as my Dad calls it (or as my Mom calls it: “crazy”), we are making an effort to forgo air conditioning this summer. Our Brooklyn apartment faces a back corridor of gardens and has a lovely cross breeze, and our old farmhouse is situated in the ancient manner, facing due East/West, meaning that from an hour after sunrise to an hour before sunset there is no direct sunlight streaming in through the windows. While in winter I lamented not getting enough direct light to nurture an indoor lemon tree (the epitome of house-dwelling luxury to me), now that summer’s heat is upon us, I understand. This orientation means the house stays a good 10-20 degrees cooler than it is outside at all times. Brilliant old almanac readers. Still, Virginia in the summertime can be, well, let’s say “balmy”. For us, that means ceiling fans going full tilt boogie, popsicles in the freezer, bathing suit in the freezer, sprinkler in the yard, cotton nightgown on repeat. And still, we’ve been craving refreshment. So. Enter the summer tonic. We’ve made a few and we love them all, so here’s the first one concocted, a brew of the wild mint and lemon balm (brought by Mama to plant by the beehives) that spread and grow voraciously in every bed and along every treeline. Some people think of both of these plants as runaway scoundrels who hold flower beds hostage and generally take over, shooting up their leggy stems and heart shaped leaves wherever they possibly can. This invasive carpetbagging reputation is true in some respects, but when you consider the benefits of lemon balm and mint, both as flavor makers and as medicinals, the fact that they’re simply growing wild everywhere seems more like a little miracle than a problem. Here, a fast-and-loose miracle tonic recipe in action:
Lemon Balm and Mint Summer Tonic
2 cups packed mint leaves
2 cups packed lemon balm leaves
Gather a big bunch of mint, gather a big bunch of lemon balm, wash and strip leaves from stems. Fill a pot with water, add leaves, bring to a boil. Strain leaves, pour tea into half gallon mason jars, put in fridge to chill. You can also add honey if you want a little sweetness.