Outside, I’m surrounded with the dreamy scent of alpine strawberries and butterfly bush blossoms. A step inside brings a hit of cucumber and dill and chamomile. It’s nearly summertime!
I decided to dehydrate a bunch of German chamomile flowers yesterday. I did some research on how to do this and found a couple of useful websites. The first gives an overview of herbs that can be harvested and stored for later use. That link is here. The specific method I used prevents insects from infesting your stores by pre-treating with salt water. The temperature used to dehydrate herbs is quite low and would not suffice to kill off the critters. I followed the instructions from this helpful blog post.
I harvested after the dew dried and before the flowers fully opened. I read that the annual German chamomile is the preferred variety for using for tea and my friend, Rita, helped me plant a patch. I do have the perennial Roman chamomile all over the place as a wild looking ground cover. It is not as fragile as it may appear. I am always walking on it and mowing over it and pushing it around…so wonderfully fragrant!
Chamomile is useful in the garden to attract beneficial insects and pollinators. I think this is a hoverfly. As well as serving as a pollinator; its larvae feed on many species of aphids.
I raked through the chamomile with my fingers to gather the blossoms. You can buy an actual chamomile rake for working on a larger scale. We are very very small scale here!
I soaked the blossoms in salt water for ten minutes, rinsed, and then soaked them in cold water for five.
I dehydrated at 95 degrees which is the setting for herbs. I had them in the dehydrator for about 18 hours. That is longer than I’ve read in other references. I ended up going through the night at a slightly lower temperature because I was concerned that the thick yellow buttons weren’t dry enough. I’ve had my stores go funky because of not drying sufficiently and I didn’t want to waste these. I kept them whole as is suggested. They will get crushed come tea time. The dessicated shriveled flowers smell amazingly potent and alive! Though I took this photo in the sunlight, I did not keep it there for long. I covered the jar tightly and put it in a dark drawer. Light and heat will have a negative effect on the strength of the herb.
UPDATE: After a little experimenting with dehydrating herbs (Chamomile, Thai Holy Basil, and Lemon Verbena) and reading about other people’s experiences with dehydrating; I found that pushing the temp closer to 115 degrees made for quicker and more complete drying while still keeping the color and fragrance of the herbs.