This spring, I planted a tea garden – herbs, flowers and plants I can harvest to make homemade herbal tea blends. The lemon and lime balm and some of the mints have already been harvested. This week, it’s time to harvest the German Chamomile.
My mom would always make us a cup of chamomile tea if we had a mild fever, upset stomach or needed to get some rest. To this day, I associate that smell with soothing and comforting and it’s a tradition that I’ve carried on with my kids. Now, however, I’m using homegrown chamomile which makes me ridiculously happy!
Unlike many other herbs, when harvesting chamomile, it is the blossom you want to collect, not the stems, leaves or roots. In fact, it is best harvested when the blossom is open to its fullest, just before the tiny white petals begin to droop backwards (although you can certainly still use blossoms that are a bit premature or droopy).
When picking the flowers, use your fingers as a comb to get just the flower head, as shown here. Then simply pluck the flower head off the stem.
Gather all the blossoms you can.
Shake them out and look them over to remove any insects or dirt that may be on the flower heads.
Spread out the flowers in a single layer and allow them to dry for 1 to 2 weeks in a dark, warm, dry space. If you have a dehydrator, you can also dry them on a lined dehydrator tray. To prevent them from blowing off the tray, place a mesh liner on top of the chamomile flowers. Set the dehydrator on it’s lowest setting (95°F or 35°C) and dry for 12 to 18 hours. Delicate herbs and flowers should always be dehydrated at the lowest settings for optimum results.
Once the flowers are thoroughly dried and cooled, store in a well sealed glass jar for up to 6 months. You can still use the flowers after that point, but the flavor will become less intense.
To make a cup of tea, place 1 teaspoon of dried chamomile in a tea strainer. Add 1 cup of boiling water and allow to steep for 2 minutes.
P.S. My mom never allowed us to add any sweeteners if we were suffering from an upset tummy – just so you know!