In this post you can find all the tips to learn how to grow chamomile flowers in a pot or in your garden and the best way to dry them. Fill a jar with your homemade dried chamomile flowers to brew the best chamomile tea for you and your kids.
Certain smells make us nostalgic, some reminds us of happy times, some reminds us of childhood. Why is that? The part of the brain linked to the nose and the sense of smell, is very close to the amygdala, the part of the brain that storages memories. This way our brain is able to link certain specific smells to memories and most importantly, to the feeling linked to that memory.
Chamomile reminds me of childhood. In Italy it's really common to give toddlers chamomile tea, especially in the evening to make them sleep better and longer. I don't remember when I was drinking chamomile tea as a toddler but smelling it. It still gives me a sense of peace and relaxation.
When my mom moved to her current house, my brother was still a toddler and in their backyard there was an invasion of wild chamomile. So my mom picked it all up, dried it under the warm Tuscan sun and then made chamomile tea for my brother. I was so fascinated! I didn't know you could pick flowers from your garden and make tea with them. Yes, I thought that chamomile only came pre-packaged at the supermarket!
This year, for the first time, I wanted to try it myself a well. I don't have kids yet but I still love to drink chamomile tea in the evening before going to bed.
I don't have a garden so I planted a bunch of chamomile seeds in a large pot of 35 cm (about 13-14 inches) of diameter and the flowers were enough to fill half jam jar of dried flowers as in the picture. The plant continuosly blooms for a couple of months so you'll be able to harvest a bunch of flowers at least 3-4 times. When I was on holiday I missed a full bloom. If i didn't, maybe I would have had enough flowers to fill the whole jar.
There are 2 main types of chamomile, German chamomile (Matricaria recutita) and Roman chamomile (Chamaemelum nobile). It's really easy to grow both of types from the seeds and since it is a wild plant, it doesn't require much attention.
- Sowing: Sprinkle seeds directly on soil surface in Spring (March-April)
- Harvesting: June-July
- Height: up to 50 cm
- Feeding: Not necessary
- Watering: Often in the germination period, once the plant is established water only when the soil is dry
- Light: Partly shade or full sun
- Pesticide: Small pests may lay on the flowers but they're usually not harmful to the plant. Use only Bio non-toxic pesticide if really necessary.
Fill a large pot with soil suitable for flowers, leaving a couple of inches of space on top. Sprinkle the chamomile seed as you would sprinkle sprinkles on a cupcake. Then, add another thin layer of soil (no more than ½ inch), then generously water until all the soil is wet.
In a couple of weeks it will start to germinate, keep it in a sunny spot and water often.
Note: My pot is 20 cm high (8 in.) so 13 liters/quarts of potting soil were enough to fill it.
There are 3 main stages of the flowers and they go from young to old in just a few days so you have to check them often. You can harvest and dry also young and old flowers but the best taste is when the flowers are just right on the maturation stage (see below).
You can easily recognize the mature flowers because the pollen is bright yellow and the petals are lowered down.
Cut the flowers with 1-2 inches of stem (just for convenience, you will cut it out eventually). Be careful to leave the new sprouts on the plant.
First you need to carefully wash the flowers to make sure that they are clean and pestless. Look under the petals as often they hide down there. You can twist the stem between your fingers to make the flower rotate fast in the water. This way the petals will open and the insects will drown.
Set all the flowers on a towel or paper towel well spread out so they will dry faster and uniformly.
Put in the ventilated oven at lowest temperature (between 50°C/120°F and 80°C/170°F max) for about 1 hour. This way the water will completely dry out to avoid rotting and mold.
Then place the flowers in a dry and sunny place (the hotter the better) for about 1 week or until the stems are brown and dry (if you try to bend them they will snap).
STORAGE AND USE:
When the flowers are ready, remove the stems being careful not to crush the flower and place the heads in a jar.
When you want to make a chamomile tea, bring water to a temperature of about 90°C (190°F), then drop a few flowers (from 6 to 10). Let it brew for a few minutes. Add sugar or honey to your taste.