German chamomile. Photo by Musskiprozz under the Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 License.
German chamomile is a cheerful herb.Photo/Illustration: Ruth Dobsevage
Chamomile flowers are just beginning to form. They are very small, but also very aromatic.Photo/Illustration: Ruth Dobsevage
Photo/Illustration: Beatrix Potter
Camomile, or chamomile, as it is more commonly spelled today, has been used since ancient times as a cure for digestive and other ailments. Medicinal qualities aside, chamomile flowers steeped in hot water make a very relaxing tea, perfect for sipping on a quiet evening or a rainy afternoon. This year, I decided to grow some chamomile in my own garden.
I ordered some seeds of German chamomile (Matricaria recutita). German chamomile is a member of the daisy family, and its flowers look like miniature daisies. It’s a bright green, feathery annual that grows best in full sun. I planted the seeds outdoors after danger of frost, and a couple of months later, the flowers appeared.
“I am sorry to say that Peter was not very well during the evening. His mother put him to bed, and made some camomile tea; and she gave a dose of it to Peter! ‘One teaspoonful to be taken at bed-time.’ But Flopsy, Mopsy, and Cotton-tail had bread and milk and blackberries, for supper.”
—from The Tale of Peter Rabbit (1902) by Beatrix Potter
When the flowers are at peak bloom, I snip them off and let them dry on a wire screen in a cool place. Tea can be brewed from fresh or dried flowers.
I harvest frequently, so the plants will continue to bloom. I like to pick every evening, even if I get only a few flowers (it’s a very small patch). I do this after I make a pass through the blackberry patch to look for newly ripe fruit. So I am able to offer a soothing tea to those who need one or a blackberry dessert to those whose spirits are untroubled.
Just like Peter Rabbit’s mother.
|Sources for German chamomile seeds|
June 2010 update
I’m happy to report that my chamomile wintered over and is already in full flower. I’m picking flower buds every sunny day and looking forward to a lots and lots of soothing tea once again.
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