Growing and Using Chamomile

June 6, 2012

I found chamomile drying on the Macchione’s back porch today. Giovanni had cut it several days earlier and put it on a chair to dry. During my last visit, it was growing in a flower bed beside the house. I smelled the drying bundle and it had a sweet, earthy smell. Some people say it smells a little like apples.

chamomileflowerschamomile1

In the video below, Marietta patiently answered my questions about how she uses it to make tea. She proceeded to tell me that she washes it after harvesting by swishing it in water to remove any bugs or dirt. She then lays it out on a table to dry, covered with a cloth. She rinses it again before using, then breaks it into pieces to fit into a pot of boiling water.  Notice in the video Marietta saying, “You want a little bit?” and generously gives me more than a little bit as usual.

I

chamomile pot

tried making some tea and it wasn’t that difficult.  Just swished it in clear water for about 15 seconds, then broke it to fit in a pot (3-4 cups) of boiling water. I boiled it for about 7 minutes and then strained it and poured it into cups. I added a little sugar, but not much and it really tasted pleasant, much better than I imagined it would.

In Italy, chamomile is used for stomach ailments and to calm babies. In the video, Marietta talks about giving it to her daughter Mary Jane’s children when they were babies and would cry. My mother said my grandmother often gave it to her for menstrual cramps. Chamomile is known to have anti-inflammatory and anti-spasmodic qualities and is used as a sleep aid. At the end of the video, Marietta uses the Calabrian dialect word for chamomile that sounds something like Caggomilla.

Chamomile is a perennial, returning from root growth every year. It will also self-seed easily. They call chamomile a “doctor” plant because it is said that if you plant it near another plant that is not thriving, it will aid the other plant’s growth.

Here is Tommasina’s chamomile drying in a tree next to the garden.

chamomile tree

Marietta’s granddaughter holding chamomile flowers.

granddaughter

 

Learn more about our gardeners Maria “Marietta” Macchione and Tommasina Floro by clicking on their names here.

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