Friday, May 27, 2011

An experiment in drying chamomile for tea

Flattered by what the neighbor had to say about the volunteer chamomile, I took a better look at HIS plant and was shocked to see that he had anthemis nobilis or roman chamomile in his planter. Ours was from another country if you could consider it that, because we've got matricaria chamomilla or german chamomile. I should've made a closer inspection of the leaves earlier on, because now it's back to square one and how that chammy got into the garden. Who knows? At this point the next obvious step was drying flowers for tea.

Chamomile blossomsSoaking chamomile blossoms

I tried both sun and oven-drying methods. After soaking a handful of flowers in cold water for a few minutes (it didn't matter to me if a few tiny bugs still hung on), I drained and left them to blot on a paper towel. For the sun-dried blossoms, I flipped a sieve over and set them in a sunny spot from 10am-6pm.

Solar drying chamomile flowersSun-dried chamomile

In the 2nd experiment, I placed a baking pan in the oven and set the temperature to the lowest setting (250°F). When the oven was preheated, I turned off the heat, put the blossoms on baking parchment and slipped them onto the hot pan. I kept the oven door propped open and left the flowers in for 20 minutes.

The results for both were satisfactory in respect to getting the job done, but I like the economical and environmentally-friendly aspect of solar drying. The dried blossoms amounted to a loosely-packed tablespoon either way, but I have to say that the tea did not taste as strong as commerical brands. Steeped for 15 minutes, covered, the color was a pale golden hue and the aroma was definitely chamomile but the flavor was very weak. I'll stick with tea from the store.

Chamomile to oven-dryOven-dried chamomile

Monday, May 23, 2011

Volunteers: sometime the grass IS always greener...

Chamomile volunteer

...on the other side of the fence. I don't often see mention of volunteer plants in garden blogs but I had to remark on this, seeing how the above chamomile started some curious discussion between my husband and our neighbor. That chamomile (actually hundreds of them), appeared as tiny seedlings scattered throughout the garden. I pulled all of them, or atleast I thought I did, except one. In the beginning the soft needle-like leaves looked interesting but I really had no clue as to what the plant was, even after tiny daisy-like flowers started to bloom. Last week my husband remarked that it was a chamomile - easy to identify with one sniff of a flower bud - but I said that was weird because I have never planted chamomile anywhere in our garden. Yesterday evening our neighbor, whose plot is right up next to ours, asked how we managed to grow the single chamomile plant so well. His (in a pot on the other side of the fence) wasn't doing too good, and that's when I figured how the chamomile made it over to our garden - through wind dispersion from the year before. Why thank you neighbor!

Chamomile flower

We dig in horse manure about a month before setting young plants out but the chamomile is along the edge of a footpath. Probably water run-off from the terraced container above it had enough "vitamins" to enable its growth because the only thing I do for the plant is to rub off black aphids. Other volunteers that came up this year were dense clumps of tomato seedlings and my bet is that they were from ones that either fell to the ground or tossed into the compost. My favorite of all, however, are the shiso plants growing in the tulip box. I had a few red and green shiso that went to seed last year but didn't realize how much would fall out when I yanked the plants. Then in December 2010 I planted tulip bulbs and expected only tulips in spring, so to have all this at my disposal is an added plus.

Shiso invasion

Daytime temperature: 7am 19°C / 12pm 22°C / 5pm 26°C

Thursday, May 12, 2011

First time growing radishes

I've never been too enthusiastic about radishes but seeing that they grow so easily here, I may as well look into sowing seeds every year. These and red leaf lettuce are the only vegetables that we're harvesting right now.

Busting out the radishes