(Or why you should grow your own tea)
A few years ago I got to spend some time in Denmark, one of my favorite places on the planet. I had lived there as an exchange student the year after high-school, and the people, culture and food will always hold a deep place in my heart. Oh, the food. There are so many simple Danish staples, just regular daily groceries, that hold such nostalgia for me, so whenever I’m there I try to stock up and bring home as much as I can. I’ll stuff every open nook and cranny of my suitcase with kammerjunker, salt lakris, lingonberry jam, palaegschokolade, and … tea. Danish chamomile tea tastes really different from what I’ve been able to find in the US – it is stronger and more fragrant, with a strong honey scent. I bought two boxes, and I was hoarding them, only allowing myself a cup on very special occasions.
Then, last summer I came across a German Chamomile plant at my local nursery. When I was a kid I used to pick the weedy chamomile that would grow up through the sidewalk cracks, and I loved the smell of it, but had never considered growing it in my garden. But the plant was so pretty, and I knew that it had medicinal uses, so I thought I would give it a try. And now I’m in love with growing my own chamomile! It’s very easy to grow, easily reseeds (consider this when you think about where to plant it), and now I have a good, local source for a proper, danish-style chamomile tea.
The benefits of chamomile go well beyond a soothing cup at the end of the day, too – although it does contain an flavonoid called apigenin which is thought to help with sleep and prevent insomnia. It also has anti-inflammatory properties and can help with skin conditions and wound healing. Drinking the tea can help with digestive issues, can help promote bone density, and can help reduce menstrual cramps, and you can even use it as a hair rinse to improve the health of your scalp and supposedly bring out highlights (though I did this once in high school and can’t say it actually worked). Plus, the plant is beautiful and the tea tastes amazing. Find a spot for one!