you may have heard that the pacific northwest has not been so summery lately (read: non-stop rain). but monday afternoon there was a brief sunny period during which we scampered over to a neighbor's house to pick chamomile. her entire yard is covered, and she generously offered to share her bounty. picking the flowers also encourages new growth.
we felt dizzy from the scent after awhile. it was so soothing and wonderful. we use chamomile frequently in teas; as a digestive aid, for upset stomach, and for sleeplessness. my herb class notes say chamomile is antispasmodic, antiviral, mildly antimicrobial, an anodyne (mild pain reliever), and a carminative (expels gas). it is especially useful for restlessness and anxiety in children and pregnant women. (i will also say that i have a friend who cannot tolerate chamomile, and if you have any known allergy to asters you may want to avoid chamomile.) i also mention some other tidbits on chamomile in the healing basket.
i finally remembered what the next step of the harvest is called, and it is a great word for the task: garbling. this is the process whereby you remove any little extra stems, bugs, or other things that might affect the quality of your herb. i set out the chamomile on a sheet and toss it every so often, removing caterpillars and such. when they are dry, i will pick through to be sure i've removed any other little creatures before storing in a jar. ideally you'd have a mesh screen so air could circulate beneath the flowers while drying, but we all do what we can. i confess, it took me a long time to come around to chamomile. i used to find the taste strange, and i think it was due to letting the flowers soak too long. they start to taste funny if left in the tea water (to me, at least). so, do you enjoy chamomile tea? care to garble with me?