Chamomile tea is enjoyed world-wide as a relaxing, soothing drink. It aides sleep, calms frayed nerves and soothes skin conditions gently enough to be suitable for even the most sensitive skin.
There are two variants of chamomile - Roman (or English) and German - which are largely used to treat similar conditions. Roman Chamomile is valued for its anxiety-relieving properties and is used to treat the emotional symptoms of PMS, while German Chamomile is most effective in treating inflammation and soothe irritating skin conditions such as eczema and psoriasis.
This year I grew my own Roman Chamomile from seed, in the hopes that I could make my own tea. The crop is now producing an abundance of these daisy-like flowers, which are harvested and used to make the tea.
Once you have picked your chamomile flowers (no stalks or leaves) they will need to be washed gently. First, place the flowers in a colander or sieve. Next, fill a bowl with cold water and four or five teaspoons of salt. Place the colander in the bowl, so the water begins to swirl through and gently clean the flowers. Leave them like this for around 10 minutes and then pick out any unwanted bits and beasties that float out from the flowers.
Once you have cleaned the flowers, take them out of the water and place on some kitchen paper or a towel. Pat dry gently and leave for around 20 minutes.
At this point you have a couple of options. You could choose to air-dry or sun-dry your chamomile flowers - there are instructions for this here. Alternatively, you can do as I did and oven-dry them.
You will need to allow your oven to heat to 200 degrees C and then turn off. Place your flowers on a tray lined with baking paper and place in the oven. It must be turned off or you will burn the flowers. Leave a slight crack in the door to allow air to circulate and allow the flowers around 4 hours in the oven to dry out completely. You may find that the oven goes cold and you need to repeat the process of removing the flowers, reheating to 200 degrees and turning off again before replacing.
Once you have dried your flowers, place in an air-tight container and they should keep for around 6 months. To make a cup of tea simply place a teaspoon of flowers per cup of boiling water and strain before serving.