Sustainable Organic Gardening

Calendula – make a date

You might find the name of this flower a bit confusing as it is also called Pot Marigold or English Marigold, without actually being a marigold at all. I like to grow calendula in my vegetable garden; it adds a nice splash of colour and seems to readily self-sow. Calendula petals make a great addition to a salad; the brilliant orange contrasts beautifully with the greens of rocket and lettuce. Just pull the flower petals from the flower head and wash and dry before use.

Salad using Calendula petals

Calendula petals, corn salad and red dandelion chicory

Once upon a time, this flower was a standard orange but now it is available in a variety of colours including cream, apricot and yellow. Rub a petal between your fingers and the brilliant colour it stains makes it easy to understand why the flowers were traditionally used to colour butter and cheese. I don’t do anything this complex at home currently, but do use it instead of saffron to colour rice and soups. For dishes like this, you get a better colour by gently heating the petals in a spoonful of oil and then adding stock or water. The petals have a mildly bitter taste but it is really mainly about the visual appeal. Very pretty as a garnish on a cheese or antipasto platter; I also like them frozen in ice cubes to jazz up a jug of homemade punch or cordial.

If you are interested in making your own beauty products, calendula is a great one to grow; it has healing and antiseptic qualities. A simple preparation is:

Calendula Oil

Calendula Oil

A beautiful home-made gift idea

  • Pick a kilogram of flower heads; remove the petals from the bases.
  • Wash the petals, dry well and leave to wilt overnight. Wilting the flowers reduces moisture and helps concentrate the oil.
  • Add the clean, dry petals to a sterilised jar, cover with almond oil or apricot kernel oil and leave in a sunny place for a couple of weeks.
  • Strain off the oil into a clean bottle. Store out of bright light and use as a skin treatment for scratches, mild rashes and sunburn – lovely!

It is possible to dry the petals and store them for up to a year but around here in South-East Queensland, it has a pretty long growing season providing you are regularly picking or deadheading the flowers. I like that it also makes a long lasting cut flower, particularly if you change the water every few days, and that it is flowering here in Queensland during the winter dry season when I may not have a huge range of blooms to choose from. You can buy calendula seed from Green Harvest. (Celeste – guest blogger)

Cut Calendula Flowers

Bright, cheerful and long-lasting as a cut flower

Calendula 'Pacific Beauty'

Calendula ‘Pacific Beauty’

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Posted in Kitchen, Organic Gardening, Sustainability

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