If you have been looking into growing Chamomile then you may have been surprised to learn that there are actually a number of varieties of Chamomile. These include Roman, German, Moroccan, Cape and Pinappleweed Chamomile. So if you are starting a herb or tea garden, then which variety should you grow?
If you are growing chamomile for brewing in herbal teas, then you will want to either grow the Roman or German varieties. As far a consumption goes, these two are very similar. What sets them apart is their growth habits. Which variety you choose will depend on where you are planting them.
Roman Chamomile originates from England and is considered the "true" chamomile. It grows like a ground cover and in fact can be used instead of lawn. The flowers grow as single blooms on the end of a stem and the whole plant grows to about 30cm tall. Its leaves are very similar to German Chamomile and are feathery in appearance.
Choose Roman Chamomile if you have plenty of space, or are wanting to cover an area with a plant instead of lawn or mulch. You will only plant this crop once and it will grow out and spread by stems that take root.
German Chamomile, on the other hand, grows taller, about twice the height, to 60 cm. It does not have stems that take root like Roman Chamomile. Instead it self seeds easily and will regrow each season. Unlike Roman Chamomile, each stem bears multiple flowers and branches out with flowers and foliage.
When choosing your location, consider that chamomile likes cooler conditions and therefore prefers part shade and well draining soil. It can however grow in full sun in temperate and cool climates but try to avoid very hot parts of your garden. Once it has established itself, it's a carefree plant that thrives on neglect. Seedlings will usually survive the frosts in spring, however die back during harsher winter frosts and regrow in September.
Harvesting & Brewing
When it comes to harvesting, harvest your flowers when they are at the peak of their bloom, before they start to wilt. Dry your chamomile plants in a dehydrator or on the dashboard of your car. Store when they are cool and dry until you are ready for a brew. Place a teaspoon of dry flowers into hot water and enjoy your homemade and homegrown delicacy.
Author: Diana Barnes, Growing Vegetable Down Under