We’ve been reading The Tale of Peter Rabbit on repeat for the past month. At bedtime, at lunchtime, at bath time, during bathroom visits where a bit more time and bit more relaxation is in order…. When James and I are otherwise occupied, Faye recites it to Silas herself. Mock exasperation with naughty rabbits, included.
It’s no wonder then, that we’ve been scooping up bunches of chamomile flowers at the farmers’ market and bringing them home with us to make chamomile tea, a Mrs. Rabbit-approved remedy for soothing little ones (and grown-ups, too).
Known for its calming properties, chamomile tea can be brewed from dried flowers or fresh, and it’s mild enough for kids to enjoy. On early winter mornings when outdoor adventures aren’t in the cards, I’ll often occupy what might otherwise be an hour plagued by cabin fever, with a tea party and brew a pot of chamomile tea for Faye and I to share.
Now that chamomile season is upon us and the sweet little flowers are blooming in gardens and appearing at the farmers’ market, we’ve been enjoying pots made with fresh flowers and we’ve currently got a tray full of flowers drying in our closet for us to use this fall and winter.
In case you’re only accustomed to the bagged variety, here are a few tips for making chamomile tea yourself:
Starting chamomile from seed:
+ I’ve yet to grow chamomile flowers from seed myself, but I know what I’ll add to next year’s springtime pots. Look for common chamomile seeds, also known as german chamomile, and plant in early spring!
Harvesting chamomile flowers:
+ Whether you’re plucking directly from an outdoor plant or removing blossoms from stems that are already cut, you can use your thumb and forefinger to pinch off the blossoms, or pull them between your fingers to pop the flower heads off your stems. Anyone who’s spent any time with toddlers in proximity to flowers knows that they’re experts at picking flowers with the world’s very smallest stems. Enlist your tiny experts to pull the heads off your chamomile. (Just expect that you might get more help than you’ve bargained for.) (If you’ve got a very large harvest, there’s always this guy;))
+ When harvesting, look for flowers with petals that are still splayed out in a circle. Flowers that have lost their petals, or whose petals are droopy can still be harvested, but they’re not as fresh and won’t be quite as sweet as the others.
Drying chamomile flowers:
+ Give fresh blossoms a little rinse in a colander to shake off any little critters or field dust.
+ Spread blossoms on a tray lined with a dishtowel (or over a drying screen if you have one) and place somewhere cool and dark to dry. (My tray is currently on a top shelf in our closet.)
Brewing chamomile tea:
+ To make a pot with fresh flowers, you’ll just need a bit more than double the amount of blossoms that you would if using dried flowers, so using a large infuser or tea pot with a built in infuser is preferable. I use ~3 tablespoons of fresh flowers (~1 tablespoon of dried) to make a pleasingly fragrant cup of tea.
+ Cover blossoms with boiled water and allow to steep, covered, for ten minutes or so. Serve warm.
If you’d like your cup to look even prettier, add a little blossom post-brew.
Festooning with chamomile blossoms is also encouraged outside of tea drinking. Fresh chamomile flowers make a pretty edible addition to anything that might need an extra dose of whimsy: cakes, cocktails, fruit salads, et cetera.
Alternative brewing techniques also encouraged…
For the curious:
I bought my 12-ounce glass infuser tea pot several years ago in a local shop; here’s a similarly sized tumbler.
If you’re after a glass tea pot with an infuser, this larger one is also lovely looking.