Monarda sp. (Bee-balm, Wild bergamot, Oswego tea)


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Monarda sp. (Bee-balm, Wild bergamot, Oswego tea)

Postby AlexZorach » Sep 25th, '09, 10:57

I grow two different species of Mondarda in my garden, and there's a third that I sometimes have found growing wild here in Delaware. The common names are Bee-balm, Wild bergamot, and Oswego tea. They're all delicious...

I often make them into teas just on their own, either fresh or dried, and I blend them with black teas and with other herbs, particularly mint.

Blending them with black tea yields something very similar to Earl Grey.

I've never seen these teas commercially available; I would be eager to see what kind of quality people could come up with. I don't know if they're realistic to cultivate commercially. They grow with little effort in my garden and spread readily. They always end up with powdery mildew by the end of the summer, but it doesn't seem to harm the plants and they're always fresh and ready for harvest in the spring, and in wet years there's often enough fresh growth in the summer and early fall to keep gathering them.
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Re: Monarda sp. (Bee-balm, Wild bergamot, Oswego tea)

Postby JillDragon » Sep 26th, '09, 05:16

I tried to grow some bergamot this year as an experiment but no matter what I do they end up with powerdy mildew and I'm hesitant to use them for anything at that point. They do smell wonderful though so I haven't actually given them up as lost cause yet.

I know the First Nation peoples would make a tea out of straight bergamot that they drank for various ills. I'd like to try it if I can actually get some decent leaves.
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Re: Monarda sp. (Bee-balm, Wild bergamot, Oswego tea)

Postby AlexZorach » Sep 28th, '09, 10:05

I've had problems with powdery mildew too. We had trouble controlling it for years because we were operating under a misconception...we assumed that mildew = too much moisture (because for many plants it is the case) and were trying to keep the plants dryer and give them more sun...in the case of monarda sp., it's usually the opposite...the mildew becomes a problem when the roots of the plant do not have enough moisture. The plants become stressed out without water and do not produce enough protective chemicals to inhibit the growth of mildew. I recall reading this somewhere but I can't remember the source?

Many of them can tolerate moderate shade. If they're in a very exposed sunny area, try moving some of them to a shadier spot and adding mulch or leaf litter. If you have a dry couple weeks, consider watering them. Too much shade, however, will also result in mildew.

Even if the plants are healthy, however, they will acquire some mildew by the end of the year...that's ok. Healthy plants will usually still have a few mildew-free leaves at the top of the plant even in fall, good for gathering...and in the spring they will generally all be clear (so that's the best time for gathering).

Also...try the different species...one of them is native to the atlantic coastal plain, another native to mountain areas...I'm not sure where the others are from...it may be that one of them is easier to grow than the others. In our yard, one species clearly dominates and the other is a bit more work to keep healthy.

Good luck!
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Re: Monarda sp. (Bee-balm, Wild bergamot, Oswego tea)

Postby judyw » Oct 13th, '09, 09:12

I never thought to grow my own tea!
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