Chamomile is one of the hardiest annuals I grow in the herb garden. When direct seeding the garden in the fall, I sprinkle and press seeds on the surface of the ground and lightly cover them with a loose mulch like straw or other large dead plant debris. Chamomile needs light to germinate so do not cover with soil. Once the sun starts warming up the soil, keep the surface moist and your germination rate should be good and seedlings emerging the first of April. I use a lot of seed and weed later to a single plant every square foot or 12” per row. Chamomile is best direct seeded; transplants may have a weak root system.
Harvest & Parts Used
The Chamomile flower heads are harvested to use for medicine. I have found the best time to harvest is early afternoon, when the flower has had time to fully open. I position my fingers under a bunch of flowers and pop them off the plant. Be sure to harvest every 4-5 days. As with deadheading, this will encourage new flowers to grow. If you care for your plants, and depending on the heat, you could harvest from late May to mid-July. Succession plant in the spring to increase your harvest days.
Drying & Storage
I immediately single layer the flower heads on a tray and leave them outside in a shady area for a few hours. This gives the bugs an opportunity to head back to the garden. After, I move the tray to a dark area where the temperature is around 95 degrees with good airflow. Drying herbs low and slow maintains their volatile oil and medicinal compounds. In our Northern Nevada climate, it generally takes three days for the Chamomile flowers to dry. Once dry, I drop them into to a plastic bag for long-term storage. I watch them for a couple additional days, not sealing the bag, in case they are not thoroughly dry. I have lost large batches to mold because I sealed the bag up to quickly. They store well in a dry dark location for up to three years.
The preferred, and most recognized, method of ingesting Chamomile medicine is as a tea for insomnia and anxiety. However, it is a profound digestive aid with a remarkably diverse medicinal palette. The options for processing the herb as medicine are noteworthy. It is used in tinctures, vinegars, infused oil and honey, meads, champagne, wine, frozen in ice cubes, and so on. Chamomile is my best-selling herb and has been used by many in specialty concoctions from salves and oils to a bourbon based Chamomile infused liqueur.