Molly and I look for opportunities to use many of the plants in our yard and neighborhood for all sorts of reasons — art, beauty, culinary use, etc. Lavender buds have made their way into tea, cake, lemonade, facial steams, and foot baths. Mint is muddled in drinks and infused in a custard base for ice cream. Nasturtium petals are tossed in salads. Pine cones are gathered near Christmastime to fill bowls and dot our bookshelves. Molly’s currently in the process of trying to draw ink from ink-cap mushrooms. Another of our experiments this past week was gathering the buds of wild chamomile or feverfew — we aren’t exactly sure which we’ve got in abundance here near the creek and ponds. We know that it’s important to be very careful when foraging, as some plants can be toxic. When considering picking something we haven’t grown, we only do so if we are familiar with its environs and have done careful studying of specimens through observation and examination of all parts of the plant — stem, flowers, leaves, scent — because some plants only differ from similar ones by a single characteristic. We consult references online as well as a medicinal plants guide book that Molly has.
There are two kinds of wild chamomile that are common — German and Roman. But I think what we have is actually feverfew, and the clue is the leaf structure. Some of the medicinal benefits of the two plants are similar, so I think obtaining some for consumption as a tea may still be beneficial, although the feverfew tisane may be considerably less tasty than chamomile.
In order to preserve the most health benefits of the flowers, we used the rapid drying method of baking the buds on a cookie sheet for two hours in an oven heated to 175 degrees F. After cooling, we stored the buds in a lidded jar.
We haven’t yet tried our brew, and it may very well be (based on the pungent scent of the dried buds) that we won’t care for the taste. In that case, we’ll consider an art project or add to the compost bin. That’s the wonderful thing about working with natural matter… What comes from the earth will eventually be restored to it in a complete cycle.