A hint of lemon balm and a healthy amount of sweet watermelon in this recipe turn ordinary green iced tea into a refreshing summer cooler.
It was finally hot. The kind of heat where you get out of the shower and by the time you’re done toweling off, you’re covered in a thin layer of sweat. It’s the type of air that is thick in your lungs, hangs in front of your face in waves, blurring your view of the green grass and the weed-filled garden.
Though, in my world where air conditioning is a luxury not afforded to my family this isn’t exactly the type of heat I’ve been pining for all summer. Yet there is something about its arrival that feels right.
I reluctantly turned on a single burner to boil a pot of pasta early before the heat of the day has settled into the floor boards and braved the backyard to water the garden where the lemon balm was vigilantly attempting to rule the herb garden, growing up and over the basil and straight through the mound of sorrel. I pulled it from its volunteer areas and returned to my now rolling pot of water, fragrant greenery in hand.
A few hours of cold-steeping watermelon, green tea, bruised lemon balm leaves and a bit of homemade watermelon “syrup” will yield you a refreshing iced tea like none other. The watermelon adds a subtle sweetness and overall cooling effect on the tea, while the lemon balm gives it a bit of a citrus hit on the finish.
It’s hard to imagine a picnic without watermelon. It is arguably the quintessential summer picnic fare, and yet, without the help of our buzzing bee friends, there would be no watermelon. Watermelon is just one item on a long list that would be eradicated without bees, but honey and crop pollination are not the only ways honeybees provide for us. Bees have been on the defensive against parasites, pesticides, and urban sprawl for several years now.
Whole Foods and The Xerces Society have come together with several partners to support the bees and Share the Buzz by raising awareness and education of the issue. When they asked if I’d be interested in participating in spreading the word, the answer was obvious as it’s a subject I see as important. Here are a few ways you can help at home.
- Grow bee-friendly plants, flowers, and herbs and make your yard habitable to bees. Plant a variety of native wildflowers and herbs in your gardens and unused portions of your lawn to give bees a healthy source of pollen and nectar. Provide a water source and have a brush area for native bees to nest.
- Avoid insecticides and pesticides, especially organophosphates, n-methyl carbamates, and neonictinoids, and pesticides with a residual effect longer than eight hours. If you must spray, choose honeybee-safe pesticides or spray in the evening, so bees are not pollinating the plants at the time of application.
- Support local beekeepers by purchasing local honey. Real honey by beekeepers who care for their hive and their bees responsibly is worth the effort to seek out. Avoid honey that may contain corn syrup and other sweeteners, and if you can’t find a good source of trustworthy honey near you, consider alternatives to honey like maple syrup, agave, or fruit syrups.
- Eat organic and no-spray produce whenever possible. Show retailers you’re concerned by purchasing products that are committed to healthy farming practices and avoiding harmful pesticides and insecticides.
Lemon Balm and Watermelon Green Iced Tea
- 1 gallon water
- 8 tablespoons (1/2 cup) green tea leaves in bags or tea infuser
- ¼ cup loosely packed lemon balm leaves
- For the watermelon syrup:
- 4 cups watermelon, cut into small pieces
- ¼ cup fresh lemon juice
- 2 tablespoons minced lemon balm
- In a large pitcher or beverage container, combine the water, green tea, and lemon balm leaves. Place in the refrigerator and allow to steep for at least 8 hours.
- In a saucepan, combine the watermelon chunks, lemon juice, lemon balm, and 2 tablespoons of water. bring to a light boil over medium heat, then reduce the heat and simmer for 20 minutes, stirring frequently.
- Strain the leftover watermelon pieces and lemon balm from the mixture, pressing into the strainer to remove any extra juice. Allow the syrup to cool.
- Add the syrup to the iced green tea. Stirring to combine. Serve over ice. Garnish with extra watermelon slices.
Because I must: All words, thoughts, opinions are my own, thank you, and I wasn’t monetarily compensated. However, Whole Foods did generously send a gift card to cover the cost of ingredients, and because I shop there and know we need to raise awareness on the issue, I said yes.