A few years ago, I did some research about the benefits of chamomile. Since then, I have always had this herb in my kitchen.
Despite being a sweet-smelling plant, chamomile is a potent healing plant. It can help you get through many restless nights.
My experience in growing chamomile has been especially valuable. Chamomile was the first herb I grew for its flowers. So I had to do things a bit differently—especially when it was time for harvesting.
Things were somewhat tricky at first because my initial estimation of the yield was utterly wrong. But with a little bit of practice, I could grow an decent amount of chamomile flowers every time.
In general, harvesting chamomile is very simple. And I’m going to discuss all aspects of this process in this article.
The Best Time to Harvest Chamomile
Knowing when to harvest your chamomile is the key to this activity. You must have the most flavorful flowers to enjoy chamomile’s natural benefits and taste.
Chamomile’s oil composition differs during the various stages of its development. For example, if you harvest chamomile too early, you will likely get bland flowers. They will have a meager amount of essential oil. And the oil won’t have the benefits of mature chamomile.
In the same way, overgrown chamomile flowers dry up and wither. They’re decomposing and no longer have the same amount of oil as before.
There is an ideal time to harvest your chamomile. You’ll want to do it when the whole bud has bloomed, and the petals have taken their straight position. Petals should also grow wide enough to fill all the gaps.
Sometimes you’ll find some of your chamomile flowers have bloomed while others still haven’t. Don’t worry! Give your plants a few more days, and most of the buds will blossom.
You might see the petals start to curl backward. That means you’re running out of time. You should harvest your chamomile before it’s too late!
Always pick your chamomile in the middle of the day. The early morning or late evening creates moisture (dew) that will cover your flowers. The water makes them vulnerable to mold.
You can expect to harvest your chamomile plant every two weeks during its growing season. You can begin this regimen once your chamomile plant is fully established.
If you’re growing the plant indoors, you can harvest it year-round. But you must serve its needs and regulate its growing conditions responsibly.
How to Harvest Chamomile
Harvesting chamomile is extremely easy, and you can do it in several ways. Traditional pinching by hand is one way of doing it, but there’s a more effective way.
Put a bunch of flowers between two of your fingers, as if you’re using your hand like a rake, and gently pull them off. This strategy minimizes the time it takes for you to harvest the whole plant.
This way, you don’t create undesirable cuts to the stem. Cuts could cause the plant to be more vulnerable to diseases.
You can also take off part of the stem with the flowers, which keeps your harvest from quickly falling apart. In this case, you should use sharp pruning scissors.
When you harvest your chamomile, inspect the flowers for bugs. If you find any, gently shake the flowers to get rid of them.
Don’t rinse your harvested flowers. If you want to wash them, you should do that before harvesting by rinsing the plant one day before you pluck them off.
Your chamomile yield after the harvest largely depends on the species you’re growing.
German chamomile produces a tremendous amount of flowers during its growing season. On the flip side, Roman chamomile is a slow-growing plant. It produces far fewer flowers than German chamomile.
In commercial gardening, growers usually cultivate German chamomile for its high productivity.
What to do with Your Harvested Chamomile?
Some of my friends like to prepare their tea from fresh chamomile flowers and mashed apples. Honestly, I am not a fan of apples in tea, so I only prepare my tea from fresh chamomile.
Let’s say your chamomile plants are well grown. After each harvest, you’ll have a sizeable amount of flowers you can’t possibly consume in one day. This is why proper storage is essential.
Feel free to keep a certain quantity of your chamomile flowers aside for fresh usage.
The best way to store fresh herbs is in the fridge. Use a paper towel or Ziploc® bag to contain the flowers, and then refrigerate them immediately.
The flowers will start to wilt after a few days, so you should hurry to consume them.
There’s another effective way of storing fresh chamomile—but it only works with flowers with part of the stem still attached. Immerse them in a glass of water and store them in the fridge!
Drying is the most popular way of storing chamomile because it doesn’t lose its flavor in the process.
Drying chamomile is an effortless-but-delicate activity. After all, you don’t want to end up with rotten or tasteless flowers.
For that reason, you should follow the tips below. These will enable you to increase chamomile’s shelf life and conserve its oil components.
- Block the Sun
Please don’t allow the sun to take its toll on your chamomile flowers. Sunlight can discolor your flowers and reduce their oil composition.
You must choose a room where direct or even indirect sunlight can’t reach.
- Warm Things Up
Lack of sunlight, however, does not mean lack of warmth. Chamomile flowers need a pretty high temperature to dry right.
A temperature in the range of 81° to 86°F (around 27° to 30°C) is ideal in this process. People often use the attic for this reason, but you can choose any other space if the temperature is warm enough.
Also, you don’t want the temperature much hotter than 88°F (approximately 31°C). Temperatures that high might ruin the whole yield.
- Low Humidity and Proper Air Circulation
High humidity is the number one enemy of drying herbs. Moisture stimulates fungal growth, particularly mold, to reveal and spread itself.
To prevent your chamomile from catching mold, choose a low-humidity room. Use a dehumidifier in your flower-drying space if you live in a climate where humidity is often high.
But you also need to make sure the air is circulating well around your chamomile flowers. Good airflow will also prevent moisture from building up in the atmosphere.
If the room isn’t well ventilated, set up a fan on low speed near your flowers.
- Cleanliness Comes First
The area your chamomile flowers are sitting in should be clean. You want to prevent mold from spreading, but you also want to make sure they’re still edible at the end of the day.
If you let dust accumulate in your chamomile’s space, it might contaminate part of or the whole yield. Don’t underestimate dust. It can be brimming with harmful chemicals.
Make sure to clean the room often to prevent dust from surrounding your chamomile. Also, ensure there isn’t much activity near your chamomile’s drying space.
Enjoy growing and harvesting your chamomile, and don’t forget to share your questions and thoughts in the comments below!