A historically classic herb, calendula is native to the Mediterranean and was originally used as food rather than as a medicinal herb. The culinary use dates back to ancient Rome, who introduced calendula to Britain where it was both used as a garnish and for healing in medieval times. In colonial America, calendula petals were sold like other herbs for coloring butter which was also known as “burn ointment” due to calendulas skin-healing properties.
Calendula is also known by a number of other names including “Mary’s gold” because it bloomed at the festivals celebrating the Virgin Mary, “pot marigold” since the petals were used to flavor and color broths and “poor man’s saffron” because powdered petals were an excellent substitute for expensive saffron. The generic name is derived from the Latin calends meaning the first day of the month and known as “the calendar flower,” calendula blooms throughout the year in mild climates. It’s designation as “the herb of the sun” refers to its flowers which open in the morning, brighten the day and close for the night at sunset plus may be used to forecast wet weather when the flowers remain closed!
One of the most popular of all annuals, calendula is an attractive, edible ornamental that brightens the garden. Its tufted, pale green, lance-shaped foliage is soft and slightly fuzzy with a “grassy” aroma. Large single or double flowers are generally produced from May until frost and consist of concentric rows of florets surrounding a center disc in colors including orange, apricot, cream and yellow with a pleasant, spicy odor. Seeds ripen beginning in August and are shaped like stiff and twisted vipers and often reseed themselves in the garden but may also be gathered and stored in a dry cool location until the next year. An easy herb to grow, calendula likes a sunny spot with well-drained soil, but will tolerate light shade and nutritionally poor soil. Seeds may be started 4-6 weeks before the last frost since it transplants well, but also may be sown directly from spring to early summer and again in September since seedlings are surprisingly resistant to cold and frost. To keep them blooming throughout the summer, harvest when open to dry or preserve in oil or deadhead regularly. Dry blooms on paper, since petals stick to screens, in a cool, dry location or in a dehydrator set at low for 6-19 hrs, then gently remove the petals.
Useful for cooking, medicinals, dyes and cosmetics, calendula also acts as an insect deterrent, attracts wildlife plus produces long-lasting cut flowers which are everlasting. The flowers and leaves are edible, however the petals add more color than flavor to most dishes when bruised by chopping before use. They give color to soups, grains, pudding, mashed potatoes, cheese and butter plus garnish salads and desserts. The young leaves can be used sparingly in salads and soups as well. One of the richest sources of carotenoids, calendula petals are also rich in vitamins and minerals and have been used for all types of skin disorders in salves, creams and ointment or as simply an infusion.
CALENDULA GARDEN TIPS
Calendula is a staple in cottage & country gardens
and Is beautiful in flowerbeds, herb gardens,
borders and containers.
Plant in drifts or between other contrasting-colored plants
for a cheerful, colorful show
Pull petals off 6-8 fresh calendula blossoms. Cream 1/2c butter, 1/2c sugar & the grated rind of 2 oranges until fluffy. Add 2Tbs orange juice concentrate and 1tsp almond extract, then mix in 2 eggs. Combine 2c flour, 2 ½ tsp baking powder and 1/4tsp salt and blend into creamed mixture with calendula petals. Drop by teaspoonful onto greased cookie sheet and press a sliced almond into each. Bake at 350 degrees for 12-15 mins or until golden brown.
CALENDULA CORN MUFFINS
Combine 1c cornmeal, 3/4c flour, 2tsp baking powder, and 1/2tsp salt. Beat 2 eggs and add 1c milk and 2Tbs oil, blending well, then stir 3/4c grated cheddar cheese and 1c corn. Add the egg mixture to the dry ingredients and stir in 1/4c calendula petals. Fill greased muffin or mini muffin tins. Bake at 350 degrees for 15-20 minutes or until golden brown.
CALENDULA CHEESE BALL
Combine 2-8oz packages cream cheese, 1c grated cheddar cheese, 1/4c green and red bell peppers, 1/2c calendula petals, 2Tbs snipped chives, 1tsp minced garlic, salt & pepper and form into a ball. Refrigerate.
". . . I have given you all things even as the green herbs."