Apr 11, 2013

Chamomile & Spring Fever

Springtime gets me into a frothy state of excitement. I get the urge to run out the door at work and just keep running, down the streets lined with maple trees just budding with red velvet buds, down the streets lined with houses whose snow-matted yards are now sprouting crocus and scilla, down past the supermarket where English peas and artichokes and asparagus have come into season, displayed in heaps of tantalizing green, past the random daffodils blooming beside the bus stop where empty plastic bags billow in the warm wind.
Sometimes, like this past week, I don't have the chance to get this energy out, to go running or frolicking or even fast-walking in the out of doors and so it turns into maddening anxiety that wakes me up in the middle of the night. The frustration of not being able to get outside during this time of year is enough to make me scream, but so long as I can keep cooking and writing and the days keep getting longer, everything will be alright. I am happy to report that the spice I've been meditating on this past week is a calm-inducing spice, more generally known as an herbal tea, called chamomile. It has "anxiolytic" or anti-anxiety properties due to certain compounds contained in the daisy-like flower. And someone like me, with quite a nervous nervous system is glad to discover a tea that soothes the crackling, spring-fever energy.

I'll admit though that this is a challenging flavor to work with. It is sweet but subtle, slightly bitter, and occasionally smelly sock-like. Your best bet is to purchase chamomile from a tea-vendor you trust, or else from a brand of tea you really love. I found a wonderful chamomile to work with that comes from Karnak Farm in Maine, grown by Mark Mooridian, whom many in the Boston area know for founding MEM tea company. Mark's chamomile is delicate and sweet. It reminds me of the way a hayfield smells mid-summer, with the sun drying each strand of hay into a fragrant, golden thread.
I tried to use his chamomile to make a syrup to flavor granola, but that was a fail (you couldn't taste it) so I then proceeded to make a batch of somewhat-successful honey-chamomile caramels. I think the ultimate use of this delicate flower would be in crème caramel or panna cotta - a recipe that offers an opportunity to infuse the milk or cream with the chamomile. I wish I had had the time or ingredients to make that for you here, but alas, I settled with good old candy.

I'm still tweaking the honey chamomile caramel recipe, but if you're curious about caramels (the possibilities are endless!) I suggest using this recipe from America's Test Kitchen.

1 comment:

  1. I think we should try to mimic the DELICIOUS chamomile ice cream I had at Bergamot a couple of weeks ago...