You might recognize Chamomile from its picture on tea boxes. It has a beautiful white flower around a golden cone. We grow it ourselves on our farm in Josephine County, Oregon. Just a few rows of Chamomile in the valley under the Siskiyou mountains.
Bees love Chamomile. You can hear the fields before you step into them. The buzz of thousands of bees. It’s magical.
It turns out Chamomile flower degrades quickly as it dries out. So each May, we start the harvest in the early morning. It’s just before dawn, the light filtering over the hills, dew wet on the ground and the leaves. The bees are already in the fields when we get there.
So we start picking the flowers by hand one by one from each row. As the sun comes up, we place the Chamomile flowers on a sheet in the shade. We go row by row, the bees racing around and ahead of us, getting the last bits of fresh pollen. The area of unpicked flowers gets smaller and smaller, concentrating the bees into a frenetic cloud. The buzz is deafening.
By 10 or 11AM we pick the last flower, gather up our sheets of fresh Chamomile, load up our haul, and let the bees fly back to their hives. We head down the road to our facility barely a mile away. After Quality Assurance gives us the OK, we can usually start extracting the Chamomile by lunch.
If you’re going to extract Chamomile fresh, there’s no better way than to start the same morning you picked it.