James Wong's - Homegrown Revolution


Posted on: August 18th, 2012 by James Wong 9 Comments

The vibrant pineapple-almond fragrance of fresh chamomile is simply unbeatable in scones, cakes & even roast chicken! Here’s my mini guide to sowing your own from the hundreds of seeds hidden in each tea bag.



Unbelievabley all you need to get started is a fresh (i.e. unused) chamomile tea bag, which – if you are a fan of chamomile – may well already be sitting in your kitchen cupboard. You don’t need to use the fancy ones in the picture either, really any brand of chamomile tea still within its use-by date should still work.

Each bag is effectively a paper sachet stuffed with dried chamomile flowers, which coincidentally contain hundreds of viable seeds that will spring to life given the first opportunity. Chamomile is after all a common roadside weed!

Planting Chamomile

Simply split the packet open, tip the contents into your hand and rub them gently between you fingers to break up the flowers and release the seed. Actually with the vast majority of brands, the flowers will have already been torn up into a coarse mulch before being stuffed into the bags, so this step only applies is your bag contains whole flower heads.

Each of these little flecks of yellow here is one seed, with a single sachet often containing hundreds of potential new plants.

Sprinkle the resultant yellow dust over a bare patch or pot of soil in a sunny position, lightly cover these with a 1 cm deep scattering of compost and give the area a really good soak with a watering can. This can be done anytime between March and September – being a resilient, weedy species, chamomile isn’t too fussy about when and how it is sown.Keep the patch moist and within as little as a few weeks you will see the feathery green leaves of little seedings emerging from the soil.

Come May- August your little plants will be clothed in a froth of pretty daisy-like flowers and pineapple scented foliage – both of which can be harvested and used either fresh off the plant throughout the summer (ironically hacking back encourages fresh new growth and more flowers) or dried for winter use. To do this simply hang a bunch upside down in a cool, breezy place like a garage or shed in within a week or so it should be perfectly dry and ready to store in an airtight container.


OK, so you’ve now got your plants but have no idea what to do with them? Never fear, there is an enormous range of options out there beyond plain old chamomile tea. From scones and sorbets, to cakes, cocktails and even grilled chicken, chamomile’s pineappley, honey-like warmth and  rich almondiness make it far more versatile and we often give it credit for. Don’t believe me? Check out these recipes from my favourite foodie blogs – including one of my own!



I have actually made this recipe (click pic for a link to it) and they are fantastic. Strangely the chamomile gives the cupcakes a rich nutty flavour that you would be hard pressed to identify unless you were told the secret ingredient.



A grown-up, boozy take on chamomile tea. Well how could I resist? Click on the pic for a link to the super-simple recipe.



A recipe of my own invention, which combines fresh chamomile flowers and leaves to add a tangy pineapple-like tang to conventional honey-mustard marinade for grilled or roast chicken.

This is how you do it:

1) MIX 1tbsp of chopped or torn fresh chamomile flowers and leaves with 1 tbsp of wholegrain mustard, 1 tbsp of honey, 1 minced garlic clove, 1 tsp of soy sauce, 1tsp of olive oil, a spritz of lemon juice & season generously with salt and pepper.

2) POUR this mix over 4 chicken breasts in a bowl and toss them lightly to coat them. Cover with cling film and pop them in the fridge and leave them to marinate for a good 2-3 hours.

3) GRILL the chicken until well cooked & serve with a fresh side salad, garnished with a few fresh chamomile flowers.


9 Responses

  1. Merry Barka says:

    your recipes look delicious I will try some of them out. I grow chamomile on my allotment and often pick the fresh flowers to make a herb tea.

    I will put your new book on my wish list

    with thanks – lovely site

  2. Cheryl says:

    Now this I will have to try. Just checked out the chamomile in my pantry to see if was suitable, looks like it is and made myself a relaxing cuppa.

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  4. Lynne says:

    So would this grow a Chamomile Lawn? ie. would it stand up to being walking over occasionally? And would I still be able to walk over it I grew Saffron bulbs through it? X

    • James Wong says:

      Kinda, Yes & Kinda. :) Most chamomile lawns these days are planted with a low growing, non-flowering variety called ‘Treneague’, which is not the same stuff you get in tea bags. However traditionally the type used to create lawns and brew tea were one and the same (Treneague only appeared as a random mutation on a Cornish nursery in the 1950’s).

      Chamomile is a tough old plant & in fact a common weed species in many places so will definitely put up with the occasional stomping. You can even do this if you have planted saffron corms beneath as long as you keep off it between October and April when the saffron plants are actively growing. But who wants to lay on the lawn in the winter anyways?

      • Justin says:

        I love that idea! I want to try the chamomile lawn and planting saffron at my house here in California (USA).
        Thanks James for all the good ideas. I look forward to my books arriving soon.

  5. Anthony says:

    Matricaria recutita is a common weed, often found on allotments. If it’s got that chamomile scent in its daisy heads, you’ve got it. I pick the young flowers, with the flatter yellow disc, they hold together better. I leave older flowers to self-seed.

  6. Bea says:

    When you use fresh chamomile flowers, you can use the white petals too? Are those the yellow petal like things that are in tea bags, in addition to the yellow core?

    • James Wong says:


      The flavour of chamomile flowers in concentrated in their yellow centres, with their white petals really tasting of very little. But as plucking the petals off can be a little fiddly, most people (including tea companies) simply leave them on. They won’t effect the overall flavour and besides they look kind cool :)

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