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It's always fun when chamomile harvesting time rolls around. 'Tis the season to start brewing fresh chamomile herbal tea!
By early summer (that's sometime toward the end of June here in the northeastern US), spring-sprouting chamomile plants start to bloom.
At first, you'll see a few little daisy-like flowers at the tips of the plant's feathery stems.
Then, seemingly overnight, you'll have blossoms aplenty.
The best time to harvest chamomile is when the plant's flowers have opened for the day, but before they've been subjected to the beating sun.
What do I mean by "opened for the day"?
Chamomile flower petals are a lot like the sun. They'll rise in the morning and go back down overnight.
Once the petals are up and in their full glory, the chamomile blossom is ready for harvesting.
Go ahead and pick to your heart's content. The more you harvest, the more your plant will bloom.
You'll use the flower heads for making tea. The whole flower, not just the petals.
So the goal here is to separate the flowers from their stems, as closely to the base of the flower head as possible. (The stems have kind of a bitter flavor. We don't want that in our tea, no siree!)
Here are three different ways to do it:
1. Snipping. Using small scissors, go through the plant and snip off the flowers one by one. Tedious, but effective.
2. Finger "Raking". With your hand facing palm up, carefully rake your fingers through the plant, pulling up very gently on the flower heads to remove them from the plant. Go easy! You don't want to uproot the plant.
3. Pinching. With your thumb and forefinger, take hold of the stem just at the base of the flower head, and pinch the blossom off its stem. This is my preferred method. It's like deadheading ... with a delicious reward for your efforts!