ImageFresh fruit and herbs are wonderful accompaniments to water, adding an unexpected zing to an otherwise bland taste. There are dozens of commercial flavorings on the market, but the majority of them use chemicals to sweeten and add artificial flavors. We ingest so many chemicals without meaning to, it seems prudent to avoid them whenever possible and these days, most of us are avoiding any ingredients we can't pronounce. (Or we should be) Bottled water is sometimes costly and all of those plastic bottles headed to landfills aren't environmentally friendly. Fancy spas and hotels offer exotic flavored waters at a hefty price, but with just a few items from your garden, you can sip the same thing as the rich and famous.

Start with fresh fruit and herbs. Mints are a logical choice, (and easy to grow) but savory herbs such and rosemary, basil, thyme and sage are surprisingly refreshing too. Choose healthy shoots and young leaves for the best results. Rinse the herbs in cool water and make sure that insects haven't tagged along for the ride. Wash your fruit, but it isn't necessary to peel it. Chop fruits such as peaches just a bit before placing them into a large container. Two liters is a good size. Mash the fruit with a wooden spoon or other tool, add and bruise herbs as desired. Add ice and filtered water. Flavor will develop as the juice and oils release from the ingredients. For best results, leave your water in the refrigerator overnight. Use within three days, discard the ingredients, wash your container and start again. Flavored waters shouldn't be served or left at room temperature, as bacteria can develop.Image

The flavor is subtle and for those of you who are expecting something like fruit punch, it isn't for you. Herbs and fruit blend for a delicate beverage that isn't cloying or overwhelming. Sweeteners aren't added either, although if you must, a few drops of sugar syrup wouldn't hurt. Stevia is a wonderful herb that is naturally sweet. Bruise a few leaves and add those to your container for a natural, zero calorie sweetner.

My favorite combination in this little experiment was some tree-ripened mandarins that a friend brought me from Louisiana and chocolate mint. The orange and minty concoction was as good as anything I could have purchased. Raspberry-watermelon was another instant hit. Cucumbers are also excellent for flavored water and can be used alone or in conjunction with other items.

Flavored waters are easy, economical and many of us have ingredients growing right in our gardens. Consciously making an effort to drink more water is a good idea. By the time you are thirsty, your body is already experiencing dehydration, and the thirst response is not as sharp for older adults either. Keeping flavored water handy is a good idea all around.

Many of us experience an overabundance of fruit each year and by freezing packets with desired proportions, we can extend the harvest. My mandarins had been in the freezer since February, but they won't last long now! Herbs freeze best if frozen in ice cubes, so portion your herbs into ice cube trays and pop the resulting cubes into zip locks for wintertime use.

Flavored waters are easy and refreshing, so keep some around all the time!