Chamomile is one of my favorite plants to have in my garden every year; it’s easy to grow, and it’s delicious in tea! Today I’m going to show you how to harvest your chamomile, and share a simple homemade chamomile tea recipe you can make with the dried flowers!
When To Harvest Chamomile
Once chamomile flowers start to bloom, you can harvest them! You want to harvest during the day when the flowers are fully open, but make sure it’s late enough in the day that the morning dew has evaporated. If the plants are wet from dew, or if it recently rained, the flowers might mold as they are drying.
Harvest chamomile flowers as soon as the petals are full, and lay flat around the center of the flower. If the petals are still curled up around the center of the flower, it’s too early. And if the petals have started to droop down towards the stem of the plant, pick that flower right away! Ideally, you want to grab the flowers when the petals are perfectly flat and perpendicular to the stem; that’s when they have the most essential oils, which give them their flavor. But if you find a few petals have gone past flat, it’s still ok to pick them; they just won’t be quite as strongly flavored as the rest.
And if the petals haven’t completely filled out yet (i.e. you can still see spaces between each petal), leave that flower be for now. If you come back in a day or so the petals will have filled out. This flower below needs another day or two on the plant to fully bloom before harvesting.
How To Harvest Chamomile
The easiest way to harvest chamomile is by pinching off the flower heads, using your hand as a “rake”. Slide your hand underneath the chamomile flower, slipping the stem between two fingers. Then gently lift your hand until the flower head pops off the plant!
Once the flower comes off in your hand, turn it over and gently shake it or blow on it to remove any insects. Or wipe them away with your fingers if they’re really stubborn. Bugs like chamomile (just like humans do!) so make sure your flowers are bug free before you dry them!
As long as you didn’t spray pesticides on your plants as they were growing, you shouldn’t need to wash or rinse the flowers. In fact, you shouldn’t get them wet or you might wash away some of the pollen, and the flowers might mold as they dry!
How To Dry Chamomile
You can let your flowers air dry, or you can dry them in a dehydrator. We just bought a dehydrator this year (we bought the Nesco Snackmaster Pro Food Dehydrator FD-75A <- Amazon affiliate link) and I absolutely love it! I have so much stuff growing in our herb garden this year that I can’t keep up with it all, and the dehydrator really helps cut down on drying time! If you want to dry chamomile in a dehydrator, trim all the stems off so that you are left with just the flower. Place the flowers on a dehydrator tray (I use the solid “fruit leather” trays that came with the dehydrator so they don’t fall through the trays as they dry), set the temperature to the lowest heat, about 95 degrees F, and turn the dehydrator on. The flowers should be dry in 12-24 hours, depending on how humid it is where you live.
If you want to air dry chamomile flowers, remove all stems and leaves and place the flowers on a screen. Set them aside for a few days until they are dried.
Once your flowers are completely dried, put the whole flowers into an airtight container for storage. You don’t want to crumble the flowers if you can help it; crumbling the dried flowers will release their flavor, so it’s best if you crumble them right before you use them, rather than right before you store them!
Most herbs will last about a year in storage as long as they are in an airtight container and don’t get wet.
Chamomile Tea Recipe
Chamomile tea has a light, refreshing flavor, especially if you make it with homegrown chamomile!
You need about 1 to 1.5 teaspoons of dried chamomile flowers per 8 oz cup of water, depending on how strong you want your tea. Chamomile is supposed to be a light flavor, so even though I normally like my tea quite strong, I err on the lesser side and use about 1 teaspoon per cup.
The secret to tea is, if you want your flavor stronger, use more dried flowers rather than leaving the flowers steeping for longer. Most herbal, green, and white teas will get bitter if you leave them steeping too long, so for a stronger flavor, add more dried tea but stick to the recommended brew time.
If you stored your flowers whole, feel free to crumble them slightly just before brewing them; it will help release more of the flavor stored in the flowers.
Measure the dried flowers into your tea strainer (or tea bag, or tea ball, or whatever!) Boil a full kettle of water. Once the water boils, pour the water into the teapot immediately. Green and white teas are delicate and the leaves will burn and become bitter if you steep them in water that’s too hot. When making green or white tea, it’s better to let the water cool for about a minute before adding it to the tea leaves. But herbal teas are quite hardy and can handle extremely hot water temperatures, so pour that boiling water in right away!
Let the tea steep for 5-7 minutes, then remove the flowers, pour the tea into a cup, and enjoy! Bonus: If you don’t throw the flowers away immediately, you can brew a second pot of tea with the same flowers later! Most teas can be brewed more than once; follow the same directions, just steep the tea for half again as long when you make the second pot. I usually do 7 minutes for my first pot of chamomile tea and 10 minutes for my second. If you don’t want to make a second pot right away, put the flowers in the fridge; they’ll last in there for a day or two.
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