It’s the first full week of June, and we have three national food holidays in one weekend! June 9 is “National Rhubarb Pie Day,” June 10 is “National Iced Tea Day,” and “National Herbs and Spices Day.

Last week I wrote about Laura Ingalls Wilder’s “Pie Plant,” more commonly known in these parts as rhubarb. From childhood, I recall sitting on the wide front porch of a home on the South Strong Road eating strawberry rhubarb pie. Each summer the Star Club would gather together for an afternoon of “pies on the porch.” Each delicious slice served alongside a refreshing, an icy cold glass of iced tea. (The Star Club was the fundraising arm of the local fraternal organization “Eastern Star”). I looked forward to that day of picnic and pies with great anticipation.  Summer in Maine is for enjoying pies, porches, and iced teas. 

My research tells me there was a limited, favorable response to iced tea until Richard Blechynden introduced it at the 1904 World’s Fair in St. Louis. Although, southern America was ahead of the curve when Marion Cabell Tyree introduced iced sweet green tea in 1879.  Recall the green tea plantation in South Carolina at the time which is now “American Classic Tea Plantation” and by 1884, Mrs. D.A. (Mary) Lincoln, Head of the Boston Cooking School was serving iced, sweetened, black tea in the North.

The first time I had sweet tea was on a trip with my friend and headed to Alabama to pick up her mother. She talked about “sweet tea” all the way down. The first “Waffle House” we came to we pulled over so she could quench her thirst. We ordered our main course. My friend insisted I order sweet tea. The first sip told me I would never be a fan. My friend was surprised I had never had it. She thought it wasn’t that sweet, but I just couldn’t drink it. The sweetener is sugar syrup and added after brewing the tea, as regular granular sugar doesn’t dissolve easily in beverages after they are cooled. Everyone has their favorite beverage. Sweet tea is my friend’s way of keeping connected to her southern heritage. I’m all for that!

How about celebrating National Herbs and Spices Day with herbal iced tea? I know that strictly speaking “herbal teas” are not considered real teas, but I still enjoy it over ice in the summer heat. Often I’ll make “sun tea” which has been brewed outside in a mason jar out on the deck. Brewing it in the sunshine makes the tea naturally sweet, or at least not bitter. I use many types of herbs and spices. A favorite in the summer is mint. It’s not only refreshing, but I have a ready supply in my garden. Try four cups of water to four cups of apple juice to make it refreshingly sweeter. If you want to put a fancy spin on it, slice wedges of cored apple and add a sprig of mint to each glass before serving. The only limitation to making herbal tea is your imagination. If you can eat it and it sounds good as a beverage, try it out. Make it your own.

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My friend Carol Edgerly, who is a faithful reader, commented that last week she had expected a strawberry rhubarb pie recipe. So here you go, Carol!

Strawberry Rhubarb Pie

  • 3 cups cubed rhubarb
  • 3 cups chopped fresh strawberries
  • 2/3 c organic raw sugar
  • 2 Tbsp arrowroot
  • Dash of salt
  • 1 Tsp vanilla extract
  • 2 Tbsp butter cut into small pieces
  • Two pie crusts

Preheat oven to 400°F (204°C).In a large bowl, stir together the rhubarb, strawberries, sugar, arrowroot, salt, and vanilla. Pour into a prepared pie shell, and top with the butter pieces. Top this with the second crust. Trim the side and crimp the two shells together with the flat side of a fork. Cut slits in the top to vent the steam while baking. I love to make my pies have a bit of sparkle, so I beat one egg with a Tbsp. of milk. Lightly baste the top crust with this mixture. Sprinkle with coarse sugar. Bake for 20 mins. Turn temperature down to 350°F (177°C). Continue baking for 25-30 minutes. Always place the pie on a baking sheet while baking, so any juice runoff won’t drip onto the bottom of your oven. Fruit juice can ruin the finish of an oven, and it’s way too much work to clean them.