These chamomile cookies combine the sweet apple flavor of chamomile flowers with the buttery goodness of a Scottish shortbread cookie.
I know it's spring in the garden when chamomile starts to pop up like a weed.
On the one hand, I don't mind. Chamomile is an attractive flower with small white petals and a vibrant yellow center. It certainly adds some appeal as my vegetable plants take their time to grow and fill in.
what is chamomile?
Chamomile looks much like a daisy, and that's because it's part of the same plant family. Depending on the kind (there's a German variety and a Roman), chamomile can either grow close to the ground or up to two or three feet tall. I believe I have the German, because although it is not a perennial like the Roman, the seeds seem to spread and pop up in unexpected places from year to year as an annual.
On the other hand, I don't need chamomile flowers everywhere. The plants grow quickly, and before I know it, they're all blooming at once. Again, I don't mind that much. But I don't want the flowers to go to waste, and it's hard to keep up with picking them all. Each flower has to be picked individually by hand. They easily pop right off the stems, and you get one of the most surprising aromas in the process - sweet apple. It's why the Greek name chamomile translates to "ground apple" when you break down its original meaning.
If you're thinking of planting chamomile this year, consider doing so in some large pots. It's easy to grow and could be mixed in a container with other herbs and flowers.
You could also cut the plant back and harvest the flowers later, which I tend to do. Don't worry; the plants always seem to keep putting out more stalks and flowers, sometimes indefinitely, until the frost. Either way, after picking, you can dry chamomile in a warm sunny spot over a couple of days. Or if you have a dehydrator, that works, too.
Of course, you can also buy dried chamomile if you don't plan to grow your own. Consider checking out your local food co-op where you can find it in their bulk section. For this recipe, you could also open up chamomile tea bags, which are just dried chamomile anyway.
what to do with dried chamomile
When dried, there are many uses for chamomile, of which steeping for tea is the most obvious. For ages, humans have considered chamomile beneficial for its medicinal properties. We may know it most commonly for its ability to help promote relaxation and sleep, though it's also considered useful for relieving stomach aches as well. In some parts of the world, you only drink chamomile tea when sick. But here in the United States, it's a common tea to drink in the evening for many people.
I store the dried flower heads in a jar in my pantry. Personally, I don't use them often for tea. Not that I couldn't use an added boost of relaxation, I'm just more of a black or green tea kind of guy. So as I started to see the plants sprouting up again recently, I was reminded that I need to use last year's supply before it's time to pick the new flowers.
I wanted to use the appealing apple essence of the flowers to impart flavor into something I would eat in the evening - cookies. I chose shortbread as the cookie of choice because it has a simple flavor, mostly of butter, that would allow the subtle flavor of the chamomile to come through clearly.
Shortbread cookies come from Scotland, and people have baked them for hundreds of years. It's fitting, then, to pair such an old cookie with an herb that has been used for just as long. I can't be the first to put the two together.
Shortbread cookies are simple. After all, they're mostly butter, which is why they have such a crumby texture or, technically, what you'd call a short gluten composition. To really get the flavor of the chamomile to come through, I decided to grind up the flowers and add them right into the batter. I also mixed some in with sugar to top the cookies before baking. I was impressed with the result - buttery apple-flavored cookies that are sweet and crumbly. I'm feeling calmer already.
If you like these chamomile cookies, check out my triple ginger gingersnaps recipe.Print