German chamomile is also known as scented mayweed and wild chamomile. It’s a hardy annual with pleasantly scented flowers, and is primarily grown for medicinal use and teas. Follow this handy How to Grow chamomile from seeds and relax. Learn how to grow your own organic chamomile in containers or in your herb garden.
Season & Zone
Season: Warm season
Exposure: Full sun
Sow late March to mid-May either indoors or direct where it is to grow. If starting indoors, be sure to harden seedlings off before they are transplanted. Optimal temperature for germination: 19°C (65°F). Bottom heat speeds germination.
Sow seeds 1cm (½”) deep. Keep moist, and thin or transplant to 10-15cm (4-6″) apart. Seeds should sprout in 10-14 days.
Chamomile is a fairly adaptable plant, but does best in full sun in well-drained soil. Water well in dry weather, and deadhead thoroughly to prevent self-sowing.
Harvest the small, sweet smelling flowers when they are fully open. Use the petals fresh or dry. The leaves can be gathered in spring to early summer and used fresh or dry.
Chamomile attracts hoverflies and wasps. Plant near onions to improve their flavour.
More on Companion Planting.
- Growing Chamomile Tea: Making Tea From Chamomile Plants
- Chamomile Tea Benefits
- Chamomile Tea Plant Info
- How to Grow Chamomile Tea
- What Part of Chamomile to Harvest
- When to Harvest Chamomile
- How to Harvest Chamomile
- How to Dry Chamomile
- How to Make Tea with Fresh or Dried Chamomile
- Tips For How To Grow Chamomile
- Identifying Chamomile
- How to Grow Chamomile Herb
- Get to Know to Chamomile
- How to Plant Chamomile
- How to Grow Chamomile
- Troubleshooting Chamomile
- How to Harvest Chamomile
- Chamomile in the Kitchen
- Preserving and Storing Chamomile
- Propagating Chamomile
- How to Grow and Care for Chamomile Flowers in Containers
- What is the difference between CHAMOMILE and DAISY?
- Chamomile, Roman
Growing Chamomile Tea: Making Tea From Chamomile Plants
There’s nothing like a soothing cup of chamomile tea. Not only does it taste good but chamomile tea has a number of health benefits as well. Plus, there is something so calming about the process of making tea from chamomile you’ve grown yourself. If you’ve never thought about growing your own chamomile tea plant for tea brewing, now’s the time. Chamomile is easy to grow and thrives in a variety of areas. Read on to find out how to grow chamomile for tea.
Chamomile Tea Benefits
There’s no wonder that a cup of chamomile tea soothes the soul. Not only does it have mild sedative properties, but has been used for centuries for its anti-inflammatory, anti-bacterial, and anti-allergenic uses as well.
Chamomile has also been used to treat stomach cramps, irritable bowels, indigestion, gas, and colic as well as menstrual cramps, hay fever, rheumatic pain, rashes, and lumbago. The herb has been used as a salve for hemorrhoids and wounds, and the steam inhaled to treat cold symptoms and asthma.
Many people drink chamomile tea to reduce their anxiety and to aid in sleeping. Really, an amazing list of health benefits has been attributed to just one cup of chamomile tea.
Chamomile Tea Plant Info
Chamomile comes in two types: German and Roman chamomile. German chamomile
is an annual, bushy shrub that grows up to 3 feet (91 cm.) in height. Roman chamomile is a low growing perennial. Both produce similar aromatic blooms, but German is the more commonly grown for use in teas. Both are hardy in USDA zones 5-8. When it comes to growing chamomile for tea, either will work.
German chamomile is native to Europe, North Africa and areas of Asia. It has been used since the Middle Ages and throughout ancient Greece, Rome and Egypt for a plethora of ailments. Chamomile has even been used to naturally lighten hair and the flowers can be used to make a yellow-brown fabric dye.
How to Grow Chamomile Tea
Chamomile should be planted in a sunny location with at least 8 hours per day of direct sun, but not scorching sun. Chamomile will thrive in average soil and can be grown directly in the ground or in containers.
Chamomile can be grown from nursery transplants, but it also germinates quickly and easily from seed. To sow seeds, prepare the planting area by raking it level and removing any weeds. The seeds are extremely tiny, so guard them from any gusts of wind or you will have chamomile everywhere.
Scatter the seeds onto the prepared soil bed. It’s okay if the seeds aren’t evenly distributed since you will have too thin the bed soon anyway. Gently press the seeds into the soil with your fingertips. Don’t cover them; chamomile seeds need direct exposure to sunlight to germinate.
Mist the planting area until damp. Keep the area damp during germination, which should take about 7-10 days.
Once the seedlings are up, you will notice that they are a bit crowded. It’s time to thin them. Choose seedlings that are weak looking to remove and space the remaining seedling at about 4 inches square (10 sq. cm.) apart from each other. Use scissors to snip those you are removing rather than pulling them from the soil. That way, you won’t be disturbing the roots of the remaining seedlings.
Thereafter, the plants require almost no attention; just water them when they look droopy. If you scratch a little compost into the plot in the spring, they shouldn’t even need any fertilizer. If you plant chamomile in containers, however, it might benefit from a little organic fertilizer every third watering.
In no time at all you will be making tea from your own homegrown chamomile which you can use either fresh or dried. When making tea from dried flowers, use about 1 teaspoon, but when brewing tea from fresh flowers, uses twice that amount.
Charles Ellinwood /iStock/GettyImages
How to Grow and Prepare Chamomile for Tea. Chamomile tea has a subtle herbal taste and is famously used as a sleep aid and to calm upset stomachs. Two types of chamomile are commonly planted in herb gardens: German chamomile (Matricaria recutita), a robust annual that grows to about 2 feet tall and Roman chamomile (Chamaemelum nobile), a petite perennial. When growing chamomile for tea, use German Chamomile which produces an abundance of apple scented, daisy-like flowers. Here is how to prepare it.
Plant German chamomile seedlings outdoors in spring after all danger of frost has passed in a spot with full sun and well-drained, fertile soil. One plant will produce about 3 to 6 cups of flowers (when dried), so plant accordingly. Seedlings are commonly available in spring at well-stocked nurseries or you can see Resources below for a mail order source of seedlings.
The plant typically begins to bloom in mid-summer and continues blooming into fall. Pinch off the blossoms the day they open. These young flowers not only have the best flavor, by removing them you also encourage the plant to bloom more. Get in the habit of checking for new blooms once a day and harvesting them. From my experience, 2 cups of fresh blooms dry down to about ¼ cup.
Immediately after harvest, bring the blossoms indoors and spread them out in a single layer on craft paper. Dry the blossoms in a spot that is indoors, warm and out of direct sunlight.
Allow the blossoms to fully dry (they should crumble easily when rubbed between your fingers). When dry, place them in a glass jar with a lid or in a brown paper bag. Store the chamomile in a dark, cool spot for up to one year.
To prepare tea, pour 8 oz. of boiling water over 2 tbsp. of dried chamomile blossoms. Allow the blossoms to steep for 4 to 5 minutes, then strain the tea into a tea cup. Add honey and a thin slice of lemon, if you like.
Chamomile readily self-seeds, so you will most likely only need to purchase seedlings once!
Chamomile is one of my must have herbs in the tea garden. Not only does it add beautiful, cheery little blossoms to the garden, but it also makes a delicious comforting tea. In this post, I share how and when to harvest chamomile as well as how to dry it and brew it into a cup of tea.
Chamomile makes a soothing, comforting tea perfect for upset tummies, anxiety or sleepy time. I remember my mom making us chamomile tea if we had a mild fever, upset stomach or couldn’t get to sleep. It’s a tradition I’ve carried on with my kids who ask for a cup of chamomile if they’re feeling a little under the weather.
What Part of Chamomile to Harvest
Unlike many other herbs, when harvesting chamomile, it is the blossoms you want to collect, not the stems, leaves or roots. Those gorgeous white daisy like flowers are all you want to harvest for chamomile tea.
When to Harvest Chamomile
Harvesting chamomile is a continuous activity, since chamomile flowers will bloom all summer long, especially if picked regularly. So, get ready to harvest chamomile blossoms all summer! Good thing, it’s easy to do.
Chamomile flowers are ready to harvest when they are at full bloom. Ideally, the blossoms are open to their fullest, just before the tiny white petals begin to droop down. It’s not unsafe to harvest the blossoms if they’re a little premature or a little droopy, it’s just that they’re beneficial properties may not be at their fullest and most potent state.
The best time of day to harvest chamomile, or any other herb, is in the morning after any dew has dried and before the midday sun has started to beat down on the blossoms.
How to Harvest Chamomile
Here’s a video giving a quick demo.
When picking the flowers, use your fingers as a comb to get just the flower head. Then simply pluck the flower head off the stem while using your other hand to hold the stem of the plant.
Or, pinch off each flower head using your forefinger and thumb just underneath the flower head.
Gather all the blossoms you can. You’ll have to come back several times over the summer to collect blossoms when they’re at full bloom.
By the way, if you don’t harvest your chamomile blossoms, expect a little self-seeding to occur. Chamomile is an annual that self-seeds quite well. In fact, I often leave a few blossoms to go to seed on purpose so I get volunteer chamomile plants the following year. And I leave a few blossoms to dry out and then harvest them for the seed. I’ve had pretty good success growing chamomile from saved seeds.
How to Dry Chamomile
Gently shake the flowers and look them over to remove any insects or dirt that may be on the flower heads.
If you wish, you can wash the flowers in a basin of water. Drain well and gently pat dry. (I don’t always wash the blossoms.)
Air Dry – Spread out the flowers in a single layer and allow them to dry for 1 to 2 weeks in a dark, warm, dry space.
Dehydrate – Dry flowers on a lined dehydrator tray to prevent tiny dried blossoms from falling through the mesh. To avoid blossoms from blowing off the tray, place a mesh liner on top of the chamomile flowers. Set the dehydrator on it’s lowest setting (95°F or 35°C) and dry for 12 to 18 hours. Delicate herbs and flowers should always be dehydrated at the lowest settings for optimum results.
Once the flowers are thoroughly dried and cooled, store in a well sealed glass jar until next year’s chamomile harvest. Always store dried herbs out of direct heat or sunlight to best preserve the color, flavor and medicinal properties.
How to Make Tea with Fresh or Dried Chamomile
Dried Chamomile: use 2-3 teaspoons of dried chamomile per 1 cup of boiling water. Steep for 2-5 minutes.
Fresh Chamomile: use 6-8 teaspoons of fresh chamomile per 1 cup of boiling water. Steep for 2-5 minutes.
Do you ever drink chamomile tea? Do you use it for a specific purpose or do you just enjoy it? If so, have you ever tried growing and harvesting your own chamomile?
I’d love to see your chamomile blossoms. Take a photo, post it on Instagram and tag #getgettys so I can see it and like it!
Sign up to get articles by Getty delivered to your inbox. You’ll get recipes, practical tips and great food information like this. Getty is a Professional Home Economist, speaker and writer putting good food on tables and agendas. She is the author of Manitoba’s best-selling Prairie Fruit Cookbook, Founder of Fruit Share, a mom and veggie gardener.
Tips For How To Grow Chamomile
Many people swear by homegrown chamomile tea to calm their nerves. This cheery herb can add beauty to a garden and may have sedative qualities. Chamomile growing in the garden is both useful and visually pleasing.
There are two kinds of chamomile. The first is Roman chamomile (Chamaemelum nobile) and the other is German chamomile (Matricaria recutita). The Roman variety is the true chamomile but German chamomile is used herbally for nearly the same things. The steps for growing Roman chamomile and growing German chamomile are also nearly identical.
Roman chamomile is also known as Russian chamomile and English chamomile. It is a creeping ground cover that grows like a mat. It has small daisy like flowers with yellow centers and white petals. The leaves are feathery. It is a perennial.
chamomile looks similar to Roman chamomile with the differences being that German chamomile grows upright to the height of about 1 to 2 feet and is a reseeding annual.
How to Grow Chamomile Herb
As stated, both kinds of chamomile grow in similar conditions, so from here on down, we will refer to them as just chamomile.
You can grow chamomile in USDA plant hardiness zones 3 to 9.
Plant chamomile in the spring from either seeds or plants. It’s easier to establish chamomile herb in your garden from plants or divisions than from seeds, but growing chamomile from seed is also relatively easy.
Chamomile grows best in cool conditions and should be planted in part shade, but will also grow full sun. The soil should be dry.
Once your chamomile is established, it needs very little care. Like most herbs, chamomile grows best when it is not fussed over. Too much fertilizer will result in lots of weakly flavored foliage and few flowers.
Chamomile is drought tolerant and only needs to be watered in times of prolonged drought.
For the most part, chamomile is not affected by many pests. It is often recommended as a companion plant to plant in the vegetable garden as its strong scent often keeps pests away. That being said, a chamomile plant weakened by lack of water or other issues may be attacked by aphids, mealybugs or thrips.
Chamomile flowers are used to make tea. Chamomile tea has a fresh, clean flavor that is immediately soothing. There are two different chamomile plants—Roman chamomile and German chamomile. Roman chamomile has a fragrance and flavor similar to that of freshly cut hay. German chamomile has a scent and flavor similar to apples. For many, German chamomile is favored; tea made from German chamomile is sweet; tea made from Roman chamomile can be bitter.
Get to Know to Chamomile
- Botanical name and family: There are two chamomiles: Roman chamomile (botanical name Chamaemelum nobile) and German chamomile (botanical name Matricaria recutita). Both are members of the Asteraceae daisy family.
- Type of plant: Roman chamomile is a perennial; German chamomile is an annual.
- Growing season: Summer
- Growing zones: Chamomile grows best in zones 5 to 9.
- Hardiness: Chamomile is cold hardy to -20°F; it can be short-lived in hot summer regions.
- Plant form and size: Roman chamomile is a creeping 6-inch plant with lacy, gray-green foliage; the stems root as they creep. German chamomile grows 15 to 30 inches tall.
- Flowers: Both Roman and German chamomiles have daisy-like flowers–yellow centers surrounded by whitish petals.
- Bloom time: Chamomile blooms early summer to first fall frost.
- Leaves: Roman chamomile has bright green threadlike segmented leaves that form a soft-textured mat to about 3 inches high. German chamomile is an erect plant with feather-like leaves. The flowers of both bend backward from the yellow centers. Leaves of both are covered with downy fuzz.
How to Plant Chamomile
- Best location: Both chamomiles—Roman and German—prefer to grow in full sun but will tolerate partial shade.
- Soil preparation: Roman chamomile prefers light, compost-rich, evenly moist soil. German chamomile prefers well-drained sandy soils; if your soil is moist, plant German chamomile in a raised bed. Both prefer a soil pH of 6.5 to 7.5. Add 2 or more inches of aged compost to the planting bed and turn it under before planting.
- Seed starting indoors: Chamomile can be started indoors 3 or 4 weeks before transplanting to the garden. Sow seed in organic potting mix in flats or pots under fluorescent light. Keep the tiny seeds moist or germination will be difficult. German chamomile seeds germinate in about 14 days at 55° to 65° Roman chamomile germinates best in warm soil, about 70°F.
- Transplanting to the garden: Seedlings started indoors can be transplanted out after 3 to 5 weeks when all danger of frost is past.
- Outdoor planting time: Sow both types of chamomile in the garden after all danger of frost has passed when the soil temperature has reached 55°F to 60°
- Planting depth: Sow seed ¼ to ½ inch deep; sow seed 2 inches apart.
- Spacing: Thin chamomile plants when they are 1 to 2 inches tall. Allow 6 to 8 inches between German chamomile plants and 18 inches between Roman chamomile plants.
- How much to plant: Grow 40 chamomile plants for tea and preserving.
- Companion planting: Plant chamomile with lavender or hyssop. Chamomile is said to aid the growth of cucumbers, onions, and most herbs. Some say chamomile improves the flavor and growth of cabbages, onions, and aromatic herbs. Chamomile flowers attract beneficial insects including hoverflies and predatory wasps.
How to Grow Chamomile
- Watering: Chamomile grows best in that is soil evenly moist but not wet.
- Feeding: Side dress chamomile with aged compost or feed plants with a dilute solution of fish emulsion.
- Care: Plants can be cut back in early spring to renew growth. Low-growing Roman chamomile can be cut with a lawnmower in early spring to encourage fuller growth. Keep the area around chamomile weed-free; it is a poor competitor against weeds.
- Container growing: Grow chamomile in a container at least 8 inches wide and deep.
- Pests and diseases: Both chamomiles are pest-free and disease-free. Roman chamomile is said to help control damping-off disease when mixed with water and used as a spray.
How to Harvest Chamomile
- When to harvest: Chamomile flowers are ripe when the petals curl back toward the center in late summer or early fall.
- How to harvest: Cut whole stems and flowers of German chamomile. Pinch off the flowers of Roman chamomile.
Chamomile in the Kitchen
- Flowers: Use the flowers freshly picked or dried. Flowers can be added to fruit salads or to decorate cakes.
- Flowers for tea: Both chamomiles make excellent teas. The dried blossoms of German chamomile are sweeter flavored. To make tea: Fill teakettle water and begin heating. Place chamomile fresh flowers (is best) or dry flowers and a sprig of mint in a strainer or cheesecloth in your cup (or place flowers in a tea ball); pour boiling water over the chamomile flowers and mint and then steep for 5 minutes.
- Note: Do not use chamomile during pregnancy.
Preserving and Storing Chamomile
- Drying: Dry flowers on a screen or in a loose paper bag in a cool place with good air circulation. Watch for insects that can hide in the flowers; if you see insects pour hot water on the flowers and dry them again.
- Storing: Store flowers in an airtight container.
- German chamomile is grown from seed, however seed starting success is less than 50 percent.
- Roman chamomile is propagated by division or cuttings. Divide the plant’s rhizomatous roots to start new plants or root 3- to 5- inch cuttings indoors in pots in early spring or in midsummer.
Also of interest:
How to Grow Mint
How to Grow Thyme
How to Grow Oregano
How to Grow Parsley
How to Start a Herb Garden
Growing Herbs for Cooking
How to Grow and Care for Chamomile Flowers in Containers
Intro: Chamomile is a beautiful little white-petaled flower that can be dried and made into a fruity-tasting herbal tea. If you are growing chamomile in your balcony garden to make tea, get the German chamomile variety and not Roman chamomile. This container plant can is usually only about 9 inches tall, but it can grow to 2 feet, and it spreads up to 2 feet across. Chamomile flowers look like dasiies and are about 1 inch in diameter.
Chamomile is often planted as a ground cover in gardens. The low-growing Roman chamomile will do well in companion plantings around the edges of a large plant container. Because German chamomile grows taller, it may do better on its own in a large plant container. These attractive, fragrant flowers will attract bees, wild birds and other wildlife to your balcony garden.
Scientific Name: Matricaria recutita (also called Matricariachamomilla)
Plant Type: German chamomile (Matricaria recutita) is an annual flower, while Roman chamomile (Anthemis nobilis) is a perennial flower
Light: Full sun to part shade
Water: Keep the potting soil moist but never soggy. Sandy, well-draining soil is best for chamomile.
Zone: The chamomile plant doesn’t do well if temperatures reach 100 degrees. Provide shade or bring their container into an indoor garden if summers are hot.
Fertilizer: Fertilize your chamomile plant once a month with slow-release fertilizer. Chamomile does well without supplemental fertilization.
Pests and Diseases: Chamomile plants are hardy and not susceptible to many insect pests or diseases. Look out for aphids and mealybugs.
Propagation: Propagate the chamomile plant by collecting seeds. Leave several flower heads on the plant so they can produce seeds. Plant the chamomile seeds outdoors in the balcony garden (they need light to germinate) after the last frost. Chamomile seeds germinate in one to two weeks. You can also take cuttings from another chamomile plant. Cut at least 3 to 5 inches of stem tips.
Misc. Info: Harvest the entire chamomile flower head once it blooms and dry it to make tea. Harvesting (deadheading) the chamomile plant’s flowers the day they bloom will provide the best-flavored tea, and it will promote more blooms.
Chamomile is a relaxing tea that may help you sleep. It also does wonders for upset stomachs, helps with irritable bowel syndrome, and it can reduce menstrual cramp pain. Research also suggests that it may lower cholesterol. To ingest all of the beneficial oils, steep the tea in a covered cup for 10 minutes.
You can also use chamomile flowers in a hot bath.
Chamomile grows so well in open fields that farmers often look at this plant as a pest and a weed.
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Daisy flowers make a lovely salad garnish, though I’ll admit that after choking down a whole flower, I cut the rest into bits. This salad uses ox-eye daisy greens too.
My class and I were invited to forage some edible noxious weeds on a public trail in Breckenridge, Colorado a couple years ago. We saw no signs of herbicide spraying there, and I had seen none in past years at that spot, so a couple of us took home nice bags of budding ox-eye daisies (Leucanthemum vulgare), each with a still-thick head of greens.
In this part of the Colorado high country where I live we have two daisies that are considered to be noxious or harmful weeds. Both the ox-eye daisy and the chamomile daisy are on List B of Colorado’s noxious weed list.
Crazy Daisies are Gross
The “crazy” or chamomile daisy has frilly leaves along its sturdy, tall stems. High country dwellers, look around. This daisy is all over town.
The more widespread of the two noxious daisies in Summit and Park counties is the chamomile daisy, also known as mayweed or scentless daisy (Tripleurospermum inodorum syn. Matricaria inodora, M. perforata). My friend Nick, who is a landscaper, calls it “crazy daisy.” The crazy daisy has classic daisy flowers with a yellow center and white petals (ray florets). The leaves are frilly or finely divided and quite emerald green when young. After the rosette stage, they bolt tall and proud on sturdy stems, attended by fuzzy leaves.
“All parts are edible except mature roots,” Cattail Bob Seebeck writes of the crazy daisy in his Survival Plants textbook (2012), though he recommends against the roots due to toughness. I have nibbled the greens many times in the hopes of finding some superb use for this invasive species. To this day, however, I find them impossibly bitter at all stages of development, even pickled. The flowers are okay, however.
If you are hoping to try this at home nonetheless, note that folks who have sensitive skin sometimes get a reaction when weeding chamomile daisies without gloves. Such individuals should of course proceed with care in touching them, let alone eating them. The chamomile daisy, along with its similar, “scented” relative Anthemis cotula—which is listed as edible but earns a low edibility rating of “1” from Plants for a Future (pfaf.org)—may cause reactions similar to hay fever in sensitive people.
Chamomile daisies are found in pretty much any and all disturbed locations up here, particularly roadsides and recent past construction projects. They are quite pernicious and pushy, navigating their way into many landscapes, though they do serve a role in adding biomass to lands laid bare by human hand.
You might notice chamomile daisies that have been sprayed with herbicides. This year for the first time we had some in front of the college where I teach. The sprayed daisies are unmistakable in their various stages of torture and death, hues ranging from green to brown and white as their stems curl grotesquely inward upon themselves. These should not be eaten for obvious reasons. The State of Colorado mandates control of chamomile daisy and other “noxious weeds” deemed harmful to agriculture, ranchland, or native ecosytems. There is a three-tiered list from the worst offenders (List A) to lesser offenders (List C). Local counties and towns implement the law in accordance to their own management plans, which generally involve herbicide applications.
Mechanical removal is another option, provided you pull them before they go to flower or seed so they can’t reproduce. This point is a reminder to brush off our pants and shoes if we walk through a field of noxious daisy flowers, before treading onward to native landscapes.
Ox-eye Daisies are Good Eatin’
Ox-eye daises (Leucanthemum vulgare syn. Chrysanthemum leucanthemum) are also on the noxious weed list in Colorado. Unlike the frilly leaves of chamomile daisies, ox-eye daisies have thicker, dark green, lobed leaves. Those on the basal rosette are spoon-shaped—narrow and elongated down low, then widening toward the tip, with scalloped or shallowly lobed margins. The stem leaves that develop later tend to be smaller, with lobes or teeth that can be thin, short, and widely spaced into funny little nubbins. The leaves are borne alternately along the stalk.
Ox-eye daisy greens make for nice fare if you can find them when they’re lush and green.
Many people like ox-eye daises—after all, they do make pretty flowers. So they plant or encourage them in their landscapes, and the daisies spread. High country folks looking to brighten their yards with daisies’ cheer should look instead to native daisies (Erigeron spp.), black-eyed susan (Rudbeckia hirta), and blanket flower (Gaillardia aristata), Summit County’s Weed Guide recommends.
I subjected the ox-eye daisies we got from the weed pull—which had already bolted but still sported leafy foliage, not to mention soft stems and flower buds—to many kitchen experiments, as I rarely get such a large bunch of them. I stripped the leaves and buds into salads, served them atop tacos, and added them to stir fries. I chopped them fine into a potato salad, and sautéed them in bacon fat to have first on an egg sandwich and later a tortilla pizza constructed with piles of yummy browned sausage. Oxeye daisies have a strong and unique, somewhat sweet flavor that I like—sparingly in mild dishes, en masse balanced by other strong-flavored ingredients.
The field behind Beano’s Cabin in Beaver Creek where our friend Bill Greenwood is chef is covered in ox-eye daisies. It makes for a pretty sight when they’re in bloom, but the best time to gather them for food is before they flower, when they are still in their low rosettes, but at their green-foliage peak. In late summer to fall, after the flowers have died and fallen away, more good basal rosette greens emerge. I like to take home a bag full each time I visit.
It’s nice to have fresh ox-eye daisy greens on hand. They have some substance to them, unlike all the frilly silliness of their chamomile cousins. Plus it’s nice to think you’re helping out with an ecological issue when you forage this free organic fare.
Eat Your Garden Daisies
You might be surprised to learn that even the common Shasta daisy (Leucanthemum × superbum)—a hybrid created by Luther Burbank’s cross-breeding experiments, now widely used in landscaping—is edible.
There are numerous cultivars available. The one in my back yard has more substantial leaves than ox-eye daisies, some with a serrated edge so neat they look like they have been trimmed with fine pinking shears. The stem leaves get long and lance-shaped, with serrated or toothed edges. Shasta daisy flower heads are bigger than those of ox-eye daisy, with which they might most readily be confused. The greens are easy to throw into a dish, especially if they grow in your garden. My favorite preparation so far has been to serve them warm and slightly wilted, cut rough with dandelion greens and chopped walnuts, and tossed in a chile-infused, oil-vinegary yucca flower antipasto. Like ox-eye daisy greens, Shasta daisy greens have a strong and unique flavor, so it’s best to taste before you waste. I like them shredded into thin ribbons and incorporated into salads with other greens too.
You Say Wild Chamomile, I Say Pineapple Weed
There’s yet another daisy-like plant you might know but not tend to notice unless you’re looking for it. It hangs around the edges of sidewalks and parking lots, and can also be used for food. This low-growing plant is pineapple weed, also known as “false chamomile” or “wild chamomile” (Lepidotheca suaveolens syn. Matricaria discoidea). It looks a lot like the crazy daisy with its frilly foliage, but instead of having full daisy heads, it makes pineapple-shaped clusters of disk flowers only, such that it looks like a tiny conical daisy without the white petals.
If you crush these flower heads between your fingers you get a pineapple-like aroma. Or, some recognize an olfactory similarity to chamomile, to which wild chamomile is related. This flower head is the part commonly used—whether raw in salads or steeped for tea. The frilly leaves are pretty and edible too. They lend a nice visual character to a dish—but go easy, as they are rather bitter.
I have made salad dressings and infused vodkas with pineapple weed flowers, with good results. Melany Vorass Herrera includes a recipe for pineapple weed sugar cookies in her book, The Front Yard Forager (2014). Pineapple weed is not a noxious weed list species in my state, but it does have weedy tendencies, following humans around wherever we wreak havoc on the environment. It’s best to seek out a clean location if you plan to eat them—a spot not trodden by too many feet, or situated next to a busy road.
A Tale of 10,000 Daisies
I have not done an actual count of how many edible daisies and daisy-like flowers there are. The number 10,000 is an exaggerated estimate, to which I am prone. But there are many more, in the Aster family, that are edible. Get excited, people. The buck so does not stop here.
This story was originally published in the August 2015 Wild Edible Notebook. The Notebook is currently on hiatus. Stay apprised of what’s on the horizon by joining the email list at page bottom. Thanks!
What is the difference between CHAMOMILE and DAISY?
Chamomile (or camomile) and daisy are both common names and that is where the confusion begins. I’ll do my best to explain! 🙂
Chamomile is the common name for a number of plants. The most common “chamomiles” are Anthemis, Chamaemelum and Matricaria.
For Anthemis, chamomile generally refers to Anthemis arvensis, Anthemis punctata and/or Anthemis tinctoria. If you look these up, you will see that they have a daisy-like flower.
Chamaemelum refers to Chamaemelum nobile, which used to be called Anthemis nobilis until about 10 years ago when the name was changed. And again, has a daisy-like flower. This is the one that is most frequently used medicinally and used for chamomile tea.
Then there is Matricaria recituta which also has a daisy-like flower.
So, all of these are commonly called chamomile but are very different plants and this doesn’t include all of the species that share the common name either. Some are Roman chamomile, some are German chamomile, etc. depending on the genus and species. Herbal and medicinal use is determined by researching each one for it’s uses.
A list of the genus that share the name:
Daisy is one of those common names that applies to several plants. Too many to begin to list. See this link to see:
I would guess that the most common “daisy” plants are Chrysanthemum/Leucanthemum, Rudbeckia and Bellis (but that is up for debate and certainly depends on where you live!). Here are some images of these plants.
Chrysanthemum (soooooo many of these in varying shapes, sizes and colors): http://images.search.yahoo.com/search/images;_ylt=…
So, does this help at all (or just make it more confusing!!!). If you are looking for the herbal types, stick with the first group of plants I listed. If you just want a plant with a daisy-like flower…the sky is the limit!
Good luck. 🙂
Chamomile may be grown from seed sown early indoors and transplanted outside after frost, or planted as a potted plant.
Sowing Seed Indoors:
- Sow chamomile seeds indoors 6-8 weeks before outdoor planting date in spring using a seed starting kit
- Sow seeds ¼ inch deep in seed starting formula
- Keep the soil moist at 70 degrees F
- Seedlings will emerge in 14-21 days
- As soon as the seedlings emerge, provide plenty of light on a sunny windowsill, or grow seedlings 3-4 inches beneath fluorescent plant lights turned on 16 hours per day, off for 8 hours at night. Raise the lights as the plants grow taller. Incandescent bulbs will not work for this process because they will get too hot. Most plants require a dark period to grow, do not leave lights on for 24 hours.
- Seedlings do not need much fertilizer, feed when they are 3-4 weeks old using a starter solution (half strength of a complete indoor houseplant food) according to manufacturer’s directions.
- If you are growing in small cells, you may need to transplant the seedlings to 3 or 4 inch pots when seedlings have at least 2 pairs of true leaves before transplanting to the garden so they have enough room to develop strong roots
- Before planting in the garden, seedling plants need to be “hardened off”. Accustom young plants to outdoor conditions by moving them to a sheltered place outside for a week. Be sure to protect them from wind and hot sun at first. If frost threatens at night, cover or bring containers indoors, then take them out again in the morning. This hardening off process toughens the plant’s cell structure and reduces transplant shock and scalding.
Sowing Directly in the Garden:
- Roman chamomile can be planted after the danger of the average last harvest date. German chamomile can be directly sown after all danger of frost has passed.
- Direct sow in average but well drained soil in full sun at the recommended planting time.
- Remove weeds and work organic matter into the top 6-8 inches of soil; then level and smooth.
- Sow seeds evenly and cover with ¼ inches of fine soil.
- Firm the soil lightly and keep evenly moist.
- Seedlings will emerge in 14-21 days.
- If direct sown, thin to 12 inches apart when seedlings have at least two sets of leaves.
Planting in the Garden:
- Select a location in full sun where water drains quickly after a rainfall.
- Prepare the bed by turning the soil under to a depth of 8 inches. Level with a rake to remove clumps of grass and stones.
- Dig a hole for each plant large enough to amply accommodate the root ball.
- Carefully remove the plant from its pot and gently loosen the root ball, if tight, with your hands to encourage good root development.
- Place the top of the root ball even with the level of the surrounding soil. Fill with soil to the top of the root ball. Press soil down firmly with your hand leaving a slight depression around the plant to hold water.
- Use the plant tag as a location marker.
- Water thoroughly, so that a puddle forms in the saucer you have created. This settles the plants in, drives out air pockets and results in good root-to-soil contact.
- Chamomile may also be grown in containers. Make sure the potting mix is light and well drained. Use a mix for succulent plants, or add perlite to improve drainage.
- Do not allow plants to dry out, but never let the soil stay wet. A clay pot is recommended as it drains well.
Roman Chamomile is one of those small plants that packs a big aromatic punch. Smelling like a Jolly Rancher sour apple candy, it makes an odiferous bright green ground cover in cool summer climes. Often used in England to fill in cracks between pavers or as a path cover or even as a soft bench cover, it is sometimes referred to as English Chamomile. However, a German botanist, visiting Rome in the mid-sixteenth century, coined the term Roman Chamomile and that name was destined to stick.
The Egyptians, Greeks and Romans all used and even revered Chamomile. The Egyptians compared the sunny daisy flowers to the sun and dedicated it to their sun god, Re (Ra). The Greeks gave it the name that eventually led to the word Chamomile. They called it Kamaimelon. Kamai means on the ground and melon means apple, so you get ground apple. The Romans, who probably got it by way of Britain, bathed in it, walked on it and used it medicinally.
Chamomile is a common term that is most frequently used for two distinct plants, Chamaemelum nobile (Roman Chamomile) and Matricaria recutita (German Chamomile). This tends to confuse most everyone.
Both are collected and used medicinally and for the famous cup of relaxing Chamomile tea. Both have bright, sunny, daisy-like flowers with yellow centers and white petals. Both have soft delicate foliage that is pleasingly scented (thought the scents differ slightly). With both, it is mainly the flower that is dried for medicinal use or tea.
Yet, they are botanically different and that is why they belong to different Genera. It is the parts of the flowers that separate the two. Roman Chamomile has a tiny papery bract between the florets that German Chamomile does not. Also, the cone in the center of the daisy is solid in Roman Chamomile and hollow in German Chamomile.
Roman Chamomile is three or four inch high perennial that prefers cool summers; German Chamomile is an annual that can reach two feet and can be grown almost anywhere. Roman Chamomile doesn’t really flower all that much, which is probably why more harvesting is done from the German Chamomile. German Chamomile can usually be cut a couple of times during the growing season because it takes only a few weeks to make a new crop of flowers. Leaving the last crop of flowers to go to seed will help ensure the sprouting of German Chamomile seedlings everywhere next spring. Roman Chamomile also sets seed but not so prolifically. It sometimes need to be divided and replanted after three or so years.
Roman Chamomile can be used to make a fragrant pathway or a nice aromatic surprise tucked among other garden plants. If it pushes against other plants it can get up to a foot high with bloom. It can also be mowed to the ground to keep it flat. However, it is an important beneficial insect plant so leaving those flowers on may be a better choice!
And while Chamomile is best known for its soothing medicinal properties, take note that some folks can be allergic or sensitive to Roman Chamomile. Those most susceptible are those who are allergic to members of the ragweed family.
Chamomile can be used for more than just a sweet smelling ground cover or a tasty tea. The fresh flowers can be used as a garnish. Just be sure to remove the green bitter leaves under the flowers.
The flowers and the leaves can also be used in potpourri in combination with other dried flowers.
And, there are endless combinations of tea, both hot and iced, that Chamomile can lend its unique flavor and scent to.