|Wild Chamomile Blossom - Taken by Shala Kerrigan|
Last night we decided to go for a walk to pick wild chamomile. Since I don't have any in our yard, but we have lots within walking distance it was good exercise.
If you are planning to pick your own tea, look for sources that are not chemically fertilized, close to streets, or where people might use pesticides!! We generally look in untended, wooded lots for the stuff not growing in our own yard, and I know that my yard is all natural. *
Chamomile looks a lot like the very common Shasta Daisies up here, but there are some very clear differences.
- Chamomile branches quite a bit
- Chamomile blossom centers don't have the same very obvious spiral that daisies have.
- Foliage- Chamomile has lots of pointy, bushy foliage, daisies have jagged leaves
- The centers- if you look at the photo above, you'll see how some of the centers are very high. Daisy centers are quite flat compared to chamomile. Some chamomile may have a flat center, but since they grow in clumps, look at a few. If you see some high domes over the petals, it's probably chamomile!
- Scent! Chamomile has a pleasant scent. Shasta daisies do not.
- Chamomile can also wind up looking like a shuttle cock in shape later in the season as the petals droop from those high domed centers. You don't want to pick those flowers, but usually there will be a lot that are still in nice bloom.
Tisane is the correct term for brewed herbal "teas", and tea drinkers can be quite adamant about it. Tea will have tea leaves. Everything else isn't tea.
So if you're going to pick your own chamomile, you want to pick flowers in perfect bloom. Trim the stems after you rinse them off at home. After careful consideration, we decided on an old trick or treat bucket to use as a basket for the picked flowers. I drilled holes in the bottom of it for drainage, and now I think as we find pumpkin buckets stashed away from when our kids were little, we are going to modify them all into berry and flower buckets! Chamomile tea is made from the blossoms.
After we got home, we took a look around our yard to decide what else should go into the mix. Of course we pinched some mint, because mint and chamomile go well together.
Raspberry leaves taste wonderful brewed but have some specific warnings:
- Make the tea either from fresh leaves, or completely, absolutely dry leaves. Partly dry leaves can make you sick.
- Don't drink raspberry leaf tea if your pregnant.
If you're working with fresh leaves, or completely dry leaves the rest of the time, it's pretty safe. They add a great fruity, slightly tart flavor to herbal blends. It's also frequently used in teas for women during that special time of the month.
Raspberry leaf infusions also make a great natural toner! Steep them in boiling water, then apply to your face. They help with acne and such. So raspberry leaves are just an all-around great option for teen age girls!
You can also use strawberry leaves! Same warning on half dry leaves. Just don't, for berries, I always figure absolutely fresh or completely dry.
They tried the Pineapple Weed which is also known as false chamomile and decided against that.
So they rinsed everything they picked, and planned their cups of fresh. TG put 2 chamomile blossoms in her cup, and lightly bruised the mint and raspberry leaves between her fingers, 4 medium sized mint leaves and 2 medium sized raspberry leaves. Then brought water to a near boil, and poured it over the leaves and flowers to steep.
Both of them enjoyed their cups straight up, no sugar, no honey and really enjoyed the flavor.
You can also use- whole, ripe berries for a strong berry flavor, clover flowers, rose hips or rose petals (pinch off the white base) to name a few other options.
The rest of the mix is drying now, so we can put it in a jar for winter.
* When the ground finally thawed this year, there was a HUGE pile of moose droppings by my strawberry patch. I had my kids put plastic bags over their shoes and go out and stamp it all down. That strawberry patch has simply exploded with lots of big, heavy, wonderful tasting strawberries!