Saturday, November 30, 2013

German Chamomile, Die Echte Kamille, Matricaria recutita

 Matricaria recutita syn Matricaria chamomilla (Asteraceae)
It's harvest time for my German chamomile flowers though I have yet to meet anyone who shares my enthusiasm for this herb. The flowers are alive with insects which are probably attracted to the nose twitching scent. No wonder they call this annual 'stinking mayweed' as it is very much a part of a northern hemisphere spring.
 I sow seed in winter in trays, separating out the seedlings once they are large enough. It could also be sown direct in vegetable garden plots or in any open sunny spot with not overly rich soil. Seedlings can be slow at first but grow quickly during the first warm or hot days of early spring eventually sending up flowering stems to 30cm or more. When all the flowers are out and the petals are not downward facing I cut them, placing the flowers in containers and putting them straight into the freezer. They stay quite separate after freezing and it is easy to get out a small handful for later use. I use chamomile for herbal tea, mixed with peppermint, and as a garden fungicide spray against damping off in seedlings. Terrific stuff from an easy to grow plant.
Worth looking out for and very helpful to use on calloused gardening hands is this chamomile handcream from Germany.

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