I planted lots of chamomile around our vegetable garden this spring, on the assumption that it would make a good companion plant. It does seem to be doing well at attracting bees and other beneficial insects. We think the chamomile is a very pretty addition to the garden.

Harvesting chamomile flowers

The main reason why we planted chamomile is so that we can make our own chamomile tea. I have begun to harvest the flowers and dry them. Harvesting the flowers takes a bit of patience, but it’s a beautiful job. The scent of the chamomile is wonderfully calming. I hope that even in the middle of winter we will be able to enjoy cups of tea flavoured with these lovely spring flowers.

8 Responses to “Chamomile”

  1. Doug Mitchell says:

    Our chamomile harvest was a bust this year, still relying entirely on abundant wild stock in the vicinity. The entire annual cycle was an odd on according to the old folks, milder than usual and with scads of moisture, but oddly distributed, causing heavy potato rot in the late September and early October harvest.

    However, our “early” potatoes (the wife’s parents are hardcore and always drop an early planting, risking a blackeneed crop from late spring frost) were top notch.

    The homemade infusions are a lovely addition to the cold months, just setting in hard at almost exactly fifty degrees northern latitude. Our regular is peppermint sage, with other ingredients as the mood suits.

    Chamomile is one of them, and after this year’s short, early cycle, we’ve already decided to cultivate some specific spaces next year. Another excellent “weed” flower easily cultivated and highly recommended is what the Germans call “Ringelblumen”, or “marigold” in the familiar english.

    One of the more interesting cultural eye-openers in my adopted Mosel-Frankish hills has been the discovery of individuals like Saint Hildegard of Bingen, a Catholic saint whose “visions” led her to catalog the pantheon of local herbology in the middle Rhine clime. I leave the source of these divine sendings to the reader’s discretion. Personally, this reader suspects certain key aspects of the local herbal pharmacopia.

    For what it’s worth, I envy you the legality of home distillery in Kiwi Country. One of the products I intnd to produce from our already larg crop of plums and apples is a happy fraction of our own local fruit sugar. Before all’s said and done, we’ll also experiment with grapes and hops as well, being just a few clicks west and north from the northern-most vineyards (Ahr valley) and hop fields (Hopfenau) on the Eurropan peninsula.

    We intend to be living quite well, high on the hog even, when the global cash economy tanks. Chamomile tea is a lovely addition indeed.

  2. Mike says:

    Just be (slightly) wary: some people (my grandmother was one) have a violent allergy to Chamomile.

  3. Frank Black says:

    How much do you reckon you need to plant in order to satisfy your tea requirements for a year? Do you have other tea-friendly herbs planted as well? I believe Spearmint goes nicely with Chamomile. And, lastly, how do you keep the insects off of it?

    They look lovely.

  4. Rebecca says:

    I grew a bit of chamomile before, when I was living in Southern California, but didn’t dry it, or rely on it for a supply of tea to get through the whole year. Having no idea how much I’d need to plant to satisfy my chamomile tea habit for the coming year, I have put in almost the whole packet. From the quantity of the harvest so far, I think we should easily get enough chamomile to last us through the year if we keep on picking the flowers at this rate. The limit on quantity is going to be determined by my time and patience for picking the little flowers as much as by the number of flowers on the plants. Since the chamomile is so pretty, and a good companion plant, it will be no hardship if we end up with more of it than we need in our garden.

    By the way: So far, I’ve found chamomile to be a pest-free crop (both here and in California), so haven’t had to do anything to keep insects off it. As Mike points out, chamomile can cause a horrible allergic reaction in some people. (I think that’s true of all members of the ragweed family.) If you are trying it for the first time, please exercise caution.

    Chamomile is our favourite herbal tea of all, so was top of our list of herbs to plant. We’ve planted some spearmint, sage and lemon balm, which we hope to use for tea, also, once the plants are established. I’ve started to develop an area for a permanent herb garden along the front of the house, but at this point I’m still more focused on smothering weeds and building up the soil for better drainage. Planting the herbs will come a bit later. I’m really looking forward to that part of the project and will make a point of writing a post about it as soon as there are any interesting developments!

    Do you ever make wine or tea out of the marigolds, Doug? I rather like the idea of marigold tea, but have never tried it. We have planted them primarily as a companion plant (evidently they help clean the soil of nematodes), though I also like to put the petals in salad mixes. I’ve heard they have other culinary uses as well, and would like to explore these as time goes on.

  5. Doug Mitchell says:

    Rebecca… (or do you prefer “Becky”?)

    “Ringelblumen” come in a variety of shapes and sizes, of course, and Anita is our Harvest Queen, so I’ll have to defer a concise and accurate answer in her direction. While I’m off abusing my fingers, learning the finer points of masonry and other “heavy lifting”, she’s eyeballs deep in horticultural matters. I’ve only asserted myself on the aesthetic side thus far, moving and locating plants by way of helping her improving our permacultural approach.

    The type we’ve been drying have a solid yellow petal and an earthy brown center, ala a “brown-eyed Susan” in the american lexicon. Not certain if they are exactly the same strain. Such are the joys of learning new details while also exploring the finer points of a new language at the same time.

    You know, I’ll have to get Anita over here and posting, as I believe the direct back-and-forth between the two of you might be a productive addition.

    FYI – I don’t know if Kevin passed it on before your most recent power outage, but the Winter 2007 issue of ‘Wise Traditions’ is already winging its way toward Kaitaia. So, be sure to let the folks at WAPF know to start your mailings with Spring 2007.

  6. Doug Mitchell says:

    Okay, here’s the skinny…

    …offers us ‘Calendula Officinalis’, which correlates as follows…

    …which relates back into the larger marigold family, and the other common German name (“tagetes”) for what I’ve always known as marigolds…

    …which just about covers the lot.

    Finally cleared the differentiation up in my own mind as well, so thanks for asking.

    Anita also wanted me to mention that the blooms are best harvested during the full moon aspect of the lunar cycle, in full sunshine, for maximum potency (If this old news, please forgive the redundant advice).

  7. Rebecca says:

    Thanks, Doug! So, ringelblume seems to be what we know here as calendula, as opposed to the tagetes/marigold.
    We planted both calendula and marigold in the garden this spring, as well as chamomile.
    By the way, we didn’t know that the flowers are best harvested during the full moon, so that’s useful advice for us.

  8. Dannyboy says:

    Another reason why chamomile is so great:

    It is a fungicide! If you make tea out of it and let it go cold, it works as a great organic fungicide for spraying on seedlings to prevent damping off.

    I use it all the time and it works great!