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19 July 2014 @ 01:06 am
the better way to harvest chamomile  
Our field has a fair bit of chamomile growing on it, especially in the area where the tractor did lots of driving during last summer's edition of working on the earth cellar. Since some of it had started to flower by the time we got back from the Medeltidsdagnara I decided to try picking it and drying it in the food dehydrator. Therefore I asked Google, who said one just plucks the flower heads off the steams with one's fingers. This sounded simple, so I gave it a try. What Google failed to mention was that in our yard many of the chamomile plant stems and flower undersides are home to an amazing amount of tiny black bugs. This resulted in my fingers turning a brownish black from all of the squished bugs. Have I mentioned that I am not only squeamish, I also have a minor phobia about squished bugs? EWEEWWWWWW! I cannot recommend picking chamomile with one's bare fingers.

Luckily, if one then puts the flower heads into the salad spinner and fills it with water, then drains it and re fills it a number of times (plus adding a fair bit of salt to the first batch of water, since Google said that was a good way to kill any bugs that might be on the flowers) it doesn't take long before all of the little bugs are gone. Then I could spread the flowers in the food dehydrator, and about 8 hours later (perhaps some amount less--I kind of forgot to check again late in the day) I had nice dried flowers, which I have put into a glass jar for storage. I also made some tea, which tasted fine.

When I complained to lord_kjar about the grossness factor of getting squished bugs on my fingers (never mind that they are so tiny one can't actually distinguish their bodies) he suggested trying the berry picker. This sounded like a good idea, so today, after the batch of stinging nettles I had in the food dehydrator had finished drying I went out to the field again, this time armed with a berry picker with closely spaced metal tines. That worked perfectly! It easily plucks the heads off of the flowers (often more than one at time, depending on how close together they are), and it leaves most of the bugs on the stem, which is much narrower than the spacing of the tines. It still took several rinses to be certain that the flowers are bug free, but so long as I don't see any squished bugs, I am ok with that.

This week's harvest now totals: two batches dried chamomile, two batches of dried nettles, one batch of nettles in today's soup, and some number if fresh strawberries and smultrons eaten. The berries are only just getting going, so until today I have managed to eat everything that is ripe without bothering to bring it into the house. I could have done that today, but decided that it is time to start freezing the strawberries, so the half of a yoghurt bucket of strawberries went into the freezer and the smultrons (wild strawberries) went into my muesli for breakfast. Yum! It will be a while yet before the raspberries or black currents are ready...
darttndarttn on July 19th, 2014 03:53 pm (UTC)
Berries, bugs, etc.
You sound like you are becoming Laura Ingalls Wilder!
Kareinakareina on July 19th, 2014 06:43 pm (UTC)
Re: Berries, bugs, etc.
Her family would have loved the modern food dehydrators, if only they had had the electricity to run it.
Sarcasticia Nitpickersontisiphone on July 22nd, 2014 09:09 pm (UTC)
That's an excellent idea, I will need to put it to use as I start to harvest herbs more vigorously.