One thing I learned from last year's growing season is that I just can't do it all.
I also learned that I go through phases. I've had a vegetable phase, a fruit tree phase, a perennial flower phase, etc. Last year, I was into tea. I grew mint and lemon balm and tons of Echinacea plants from seed! I also grew 2 kinds of chamomile plants - German (annual) and Roman (perennial). The German chamomile plants produce more flowers, which give the tea its lovely taste and smell. I love the scent of chamomile flowers - it reminds me of apples, and it transports me back to summer, 1987, when I would have a cup of this tea every morning before I hopped on a bus to go to work.
For people who have never considered where tea actually comes from, it's a surprise when they learn that tea often comes from flowers and plants that one can grow right in the back yard! Last year, as I was harvesting tons of the tiny daisy-flowers to dry for tea, I sent a picture of them to my sister-in-law's cell phone. She was shocked to learn how beautiful chamomile tea is! It actually looks great in bouquets!
I harvested the flowers while using latex gloves so that I wouldn't get any oils on the flowers, and I let them dry out on screens in an unused bedroom upstairs. When I couldn't keep up with harvesting, I simply cut down huge armfuls of the plants and hung them upside down in the same bedroom closet to dry. After some time, when they were clearly all dried out, I put the flowers into jars, and the leaves/plants into a big bag until I could get to it at a later time.
Chamomile tea also has some health benefits. It helps reduce:
Skin conditions (like eczema)
I did dry other herbs to brew, like lots of lemon balm and mint. I also grew and dried stevia! I remember the first time I gave my father-in-law a leaf to chew. His eyes grew wide and a smile broke over his face! It's really amazing to taste a leaf that tastes sweet, and not bitter.
This chamomile tea tastes amazing.
It's just sad that it gets used up so quickly. And as I am trying to pull realistic plans together for a new growing season, I remind myself, I just can't do it all.
I am in a flower phase at the moment. Thankfully, I grew lots of perennial chamomile plants because I don't want to grow new ones this year. ;)
For tea lovers and garden lovers, a really fun book about growing your own tea: Homegrown Tea: An Illustrated Guide to Planting, Harvesting, and Blending Teas and Tisanes, by Cassie Liversige. 5 stars!!
Chamomile Seeds - I bought mine from Johnny's Selected Seeds (www.johnnyseeds.com)