I think everyone should grow feverfew in their garden, though not—I repeat, not— in your raised beds. (Can you tell I learned that lesson the hard way?) After a small feverfew plant purchased from a local nursery took over one of my back beds, I transplanted her to my pollinator garden, where she’s been quite happy ever since.
Before I tell you how to harvest and use feverfew, let me introduce you to this incredible plant.
Intro to feverfew
Feverfew is a gorgeous herb with white flowers that add a little bit of cottage-garden whimsy to any outdoor space. Plus, pollinators like bees and butterflies love it. It’s a member of the Asteraceae plant family, also called the aster or daisy family, which, you may know, is my favorite plant family (yes, I play favorites). This family includes different types of lettuce, salad greens, and even sunflowers. Aster family plants (pictured below) are a great intro to the kitchen garden for beginners, they fit in small spaces, and they usually don’t require much tending.
Most plants in the Asteraceae family are annuals, but feverfew, being a perennial, is an exception. Feverfew has been used for centuries, perhaps millennia, to treat—you guessed it—fevers. Some people say it’s also good for migraines, general headaches, and even PMS symptoms. The leaves and flowers of feverfew can be dried or used fresh in teas, tinctures, or tisanes.
To be honest, I’m not really into fancy herbal home remedies, but I do love growing beautiful herbs in my kitchen garden and I definitely love creating my own teas. It’s really easy to pour boiling water over the dried leaves and flowers of feverfew. Who knows, maybe I’ll be Ms. Herbal Medicine Woman one day.
I recommend growing feverfew by plant instead of seed (you’d have to start seeds indoors very early). In her first year, my feverfew only grew to 12 inches tall and produced a couple flowers. Her second year was a completely different story. She was one of the first to come back after snow and frost had passed in the Chicago area, and took over the whole corner of my bed, with stems two to three feet tall each. Again, I recommend planting in the ground, not a raised bed. (Save your precious raised bed space for more temperamental plants like bush beans, peas, peppers, lettuces, etc.)
Make sure your feverfew plant gets some good sun. Overall, this is a very low-maintenance plant. I haven't given mine any extra attention, no extra watering, no extra fertilizing—she's just flourishing on her own.
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As always, try not to cut more than a third of a plant at any one time when you’re harvesting or pruning. I harvest a couple stems from my feverfew plant by cutting at the base.
I’ll take the leaves and flowers inside, tie them with twine, and hang them upside down to dry in a cool, dry, fairly dark place, maybe on a coat rack or something. People ask me about dehydrating herbs, but I find letting them dry out naturally is the simplest and easiest way. I like to let nature do its thing.
It’s had a lot of years to practice.