If you missed my post last week about the different flowers I have in my garden and some ideas of what to do with them, check it out! There is some amazing blooms out there and I really wanted to share them with you. But if you want a way to ease into the world of edible flowers, herbs and gardening, this is a great place to start!
Here, we have one of the classics. Chamomile. Chamomile is calming, peaceful and promotes contemplation and rest. Chamomile is super easy to grow (you can put it right in your garden bed, or in a container). I put it in the herb garden which is right outside the back door of our house. I love my little herb garden. I had no idea Chamomile grew tall and liked to flop over, so I added a tomato cage around it a few weeks after I planted it. I wish I had done this at the start, because trying to force unwieldily chamomile stems into a cage and breaking them, as well as bruising some flowers and leaves, isn’t exactly a graceful and um…”peaceful” task, but it was done and the plant seems to have bounced back just fine. In fact, just one plant gives me quite a bit of flowers, and I find myself drying a small batch about every week.
- Pick your flowers early in the day (anytime before noon is okay). This ensures that they will be fresh, perky and full of flavor. If the picking is done later in the day, the plant may be more tired, taxed or stressed from being in the heat all day. If your life is such that morning picking isn’t for you, then wait until evening or anytime the plant has some shade on it for an hour or two.
- Place all the flowers in a bowl of cool water to gently wash off any bugs, dirt, or spider webs. A note about washing: washing does not fully remove pesticides. If you are using pesticides in your yard, you should not spray pesticides on (or near!) herbs or things you plan to consume. I’ve found that a mixture of soap and water takes care of the aphids, and having a well-balanced eco-system in your yard (meaning plenty of bees, butterflies, dragon flies, lady bugs and spiders) helps combat other bugs that are likely to feast on your precious herbs. But I’m learning more about organic gardening everyday, so if you have any thoughts about this, please comment!
- Let the flower buds soak in the cool water for a few minutes, then put them in a salad spinner to dry them, or put them in a single layer on paper towels until dry.
- Preheat the oven (or a toaster oven, which is how I do my smaller batches) to 200 degrees (250 or 300 works better in the toaster oven, it doesn’t seem to run as warm as my full size oven).
- Put the flowers on a parchment lined baking sheet, trim off any stems that are a little longer then 1/2 inch.
- Put the tray in the oven and turn the oven off, leaving the door propped open about 2 inches for a full size oven or 1 inch for a toaster oven.
- Let them dry in the oven for a couple of hours, about 3 and then check them. You can also heat the oven back up after a few hours (remove the flowers first!) and repeat until all the moisture is gone from the petals and they look dried. Mine took about 6 hours, or basically all day and I re-heated the oven twice. These ones I put back in:
When they are all dry they should look something like this:
The center yellow part will still have some moisture, that’s okay. Store in a small jar, adding more dried chamomile as you make it.
To make a cup of tea, use 1 tablespoon of flowers per 8-10 oz cup. Boil some water, pour over the flowers and let steep for 10-15 minutes. Strain or remove the tea ball/sieve and then add honey or lemon as desired. I prefer it without any further adornment… it’s the best chamomile tea I’ve ever had and I don’t want to cover up the flavor.