DURING the holiday season why not try something a little different and treat your family to delightful herbal alternatives?
Instead of the usual holiday drinks, try lemonade with sprigs of lemon balm, tomato juice with a sprig of oregano or a few basil leaves, mineral water with rose geraniums, white wine with borage blossoms floating on top, or refreshing iced herbal tea with tangy mint.
And perk up the ice cubes too, by freezing a mint leaf or a borage flower in each one!
To make an iced herbal tea, infuse one tablespoon of fresh leafy herbs, or one to two teaspoons of the dried herb, for each cup of hot water. Infuse for five minutes, then strain into a cup or mug, leave it to cool and then chill in the refrigerator before drinking.
Try herbs such as chamomile, mint, marjoram, lemon balm, lemon verbena, scented geraniums (Pelargonium spp.) or lemon grass.
Once made, your iced herbal tea is delicious if mixed with chilled mineral water or fresh fruit juice and a long leafy stalk of the appropriate herb.
Mint Julep, a favourite with my family, is easy to make and is a refreshing non-alcoholic drink on hot summer days.
Wash five handfuls of fresh mint and place the herb in a ceramic, enamel or stainless steel basin and cover with one cup of sugar. Add the strained juice of five lemons, stand for two hours, stir and transfer to a large glass jug. Add six ice cubes, one and a half litres of ginger ale and garnish with fresh sprigs of mint.
Another non-alcoholic drink for celebrating the festive season is elder flower champagne. To make, first dissolve 875 grams of sugar in two cups of hot water, and then add the sugar water, four fresh large elder flower heads, two tablespoons of white wine vinegar and the juice of one lemon, including the rind (without the pith and cut into quarters) to a large enamel or stainless saucepan.
Pour in four litres of cold water, cover with a clean tea towel and leave for four to five days.
Strain off the liquid into clean screw-top bottles and leave for another six days or until effervescing. Serve it chilled in a large glass with ice cubes.
Herbs and flowers can also be used to make unusual yet delightful festive desserts that are refreshing to the palate and an ideal sweet for hot summer days.
Citrus flavours, especially, are perfect for hot weather - and what better to enjoy them than on a delicious and tangy citrus sorbet.
Add to a stainless steel or enamel saucepan 600ml of water, 150g of sugar and two drops each of lemon, grapefruit and lime essential oil. Boil for 10 minutes, remove from the stove, cool, partially freeze the mixture, and then beat it until it is soft and mushy.
Beat the white of one egg until it is stiff, then fold in the egg white, along with the pulp of one grapefruit.
Spoon the dessert into individual serving bowls and freeze for four hours before serving.
This holiday season, why not try the cool and refreshing yet delicious alternative that herbal treats have to offer?
More from Alan Hayes - www.itssonatural.com