Monday, July 25, 2011

Harvesting German Chamomile

Our German Chamomile Harvest from Yesterday
I've been growing Territorial Seed's German Chamomile for 3 years now.  It is a plant well suited to our wet region, here in the foothills of the Cascades, in Western Washington, and flourishes in my boggy garden.  I have started it every year from seed in about February or March, planting out after the danger of frost has passed.  It's not my starts that are the healthiest, however, it is the volunteer plants that come up each year from the tiny seeds that inevitably fall to the soil.  Chamomile seeds are teeny, as small as a poppyseed, but elongated and yellowish.  

I love to drink chamomile tea steeped with honey on a wet and cloudy day, and I especially love to share it with a friend.  Most recently, I have shared it with my dad, as we sat and visited on a rare no-children occasion in my house.  He came to my house a little stressed, and by the time he was ready to leave, he was smiling, relaxed, and even asking for another cup.  Chamomile is known for this, and I think you are inevitably relaxed when you drink it, whether you prefer to be or not.  I was very sleepy after my cup with my dad! 


Lots of flowers~


You can make tea from fresh or dried flowers.  Actually, it is not technically Tea, which can only be made from the chinese Tea plant, Camellia sinensis.   Instead, any hot drink made by steeping herbs in hot water is called a tisane.  Tisane with various plants is common in every culture.  My 5 year old recently harvested about 1/8 of a cup of the flowers with her visiting friend.  They begged for tea, so I tried it.  I steeped it, covered, for about 5 minutes in a pyrex glass measuring cup with very hot tea water, then added some honey and cold water.  The girls were very pleased.  They felt fancy and thought it tasted good too. 

If you have Chamomile growing, it is very simple to harvest.  Watch for the yellow centers of the flower heads to grow larger, and for the white petals to begin to turn back.  It is then that you go out and collect just the flowers.  I tend to do this when the dew has dried, to expedite drying.  Bring a child or friend with you, and the work will become fun.  Yesterday, I brought my mom, my girls and my dog with me.  My mom sat and visited with me, while my girls and dog chased butterflies.  Eventually, the girls won all of us over and we went on a butterfly chase too.  


The Chamomile patch..taken with the cell phone

Pretty flowers!


I like to put the harvested flowers in a bowl on my counter, and stir them occasionally until they are so dry the flowers fall apart.  You may also put them on a screen to dry, though you will need to have a tea towel beneath to catch the flowers as they dry, because they will fall.  I have harvested them on the morning of a rare 100 degree day, put them on a screen, and allowed them to dry in my dining room, and come home at the end of the day to most of the flowers disintegrated!   

I usually allow the flowers to dry like this for a few weeks.   Once i feel they are dry enough, and most of the flower heads have fallen apart, I will go back and remove any large stems I may have left.   Then, I put them in a dark, airtight jar to protect the freshness of the herb from air and light damage.  The flowers have lasted just fine for a year for me.  I've never kept them longer because they're usually gone after a year!

When you are ready for a cup of chamomile, just put about a tablespoon of dried flowers in the bottom of your mug, boil some water, pour it over the top, cover with a saucer for 3-5 minutes, then strain with a fine strainer, add honey and enjoy! You may also use a tea ball, though sometimes tiny flowers will come through.

So harvest your chamomile!  The short time of work is worth the cup of tisane shared with a loved one, and the relaxation it will inevitably bring.  

Perfect ending to a Chamomile Harvesting Party!


2 comments:

  1. After reading this, I'm pretty sure that I need to grow some chamomile. Where did you buy your original plant or seeds?

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  2. territorial seed is the one of the best seed sources for this area because they grow things for our climate. that is where i got the seed. you can get it online or from the co op in stanwood. might be too late for chamomile this year, though you could try. summer might go till october!

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