Besides making a good tea, chamomile is a tasty flower that can be used for much more in cooking—especially in sweet dishes, where its unique aroma adds great depth.
Where to Find It
You can find chamomile throughout Denmark. It thrives in dry soil and prefers full sun. It often grows in clay soil at the edge of cultivated woods, and on dry roadsides.
Salt marshes, hedges, roadsides, grasslands.
When to Find It
You'll find chamomile from July until early September.
Flowers and leaves: July, August, September.
How to Spot It
Chamomile typically grows to between 10 and 50 cm, and has leaves that resemble thick dill fronds. The flowers, which look like an old-fashioned airplane propeller, have a yellow, domed head encircled by white, oblong petals. It often grows in small clusters, and you'll generally smell chamomile before you see it.
How to Pick It
People normally just use the flower, but you can also take the leaves. Pick the flower heads or cut off the top half of the plant—but no more—to ensure that it can continue growing.
On the palate
Chamomile tastes aromatic and floral, with notes of green apple and honey. The flowers are spongy, with a succulent bite.
The plant smells sweet and floral, with notes of fresh hay and honey.
Chamomile should be handled carefully when cooking to get the most out of its special aroma and mild flavor. The flowers and leaves can't tolerate intense or extended heat, but you can use them to make extracts or infusions, which can then be used to flavor food.
Aside from making tea, chamomile can be used in a variety of sweet dishes, though it is especially good in strawberry preparations. Use it in cakes, custards, syrup, and ice cream, or add it to dishes with cream, strawberries, almonds, honey, or other aromatic flowers such as elderflower or lavender. Chamomile also works well in alcoholic drinks such as schnapps or berry liqueurs, and in rhubarb juice. The herb can be used in savory cooking, bringing depth to lighter dishes. Tossing the petals in salad is a traditional choice, but there’s room to innovate with infusions and extractions that can be added to sauces and soups. Chamomile pairs well with gently-flavored ingredients like scallops, cream, white fish, lobster, and other shellfish.
Cover the chamomile with a moist cloth and store in a sealed bag or airtight container inside the crisper drawer of your refrigerator, where the leaves will stay fresh for up to a couple of weeks. The flowers will rarely keep for more than a couple of days, but they retain their aroma very well when dried.
No equivalent substitutions.
Risk of misidentifying the plant
Chamomile can be confused with scentless chamomile, which doesn't have the aromatic scent of common chamomile. Scentless chamomile is not toxic, but has no value as an edible plant.