Calendula is a bright little member of the Asteraceae Family, which includes stevia, sunflowers, and even lettuces. The name Calendula is actually the genus name for around 20 species of herbaceous plants. The most often recognized and utilized species is the Calendula officinalis (English or pot marigold) and is edible. This is not the same as the French marigold from the Tagetes genus. Calendula is often grown in polyculture gardens because it’s useful in repelling unwanted insect, but great at attracting beneficial ones, plus it works to protect and enrich the soil.
This native of southwestern Asia, Western Europe, Macaronesia, and the Mediterranean is often referred to as the poor man’s saffron, although it isn’t a relative of the highly sought after spice. Like saffron though, it is used to color and flavor dishes, dye fabrics, and consumed or applied topically for medicinal needs. Calendula usually grows as an annual, but can, in very mild climates, grow as a perennial.
Calendula can be easily grown, just make sure you are actually growing the Calendula officinalis variety if you plan on consuming it or using it for medicinal purposes. This stunning flower will need to be planted in a spot with full sun or partial shade (in hot climates) in an area where it can be allowed to grow tall, as often it will reach 2’ in height. Plant seeds in the early spring when light frostings are still a possibility in your area. Seeds should be sown in slightly acidic soil approximately ½ inch deep and spaced 1’ apart.
As your flowers grow, consistently water them, but do not overwater, or mildews can develop. To increase your number of blooms and/or to prevent self-fertilization, deadhead your plants. Calendula is ready to harvest for use as soon as the blooms are full.
Harvest your flower heads when the weather is sunny and dry and preferably in the morning. Simply pinch or cut off the heads with scissors at the stem where the first set of leaves begin. Cutting this small portion of the stem along with the head will help prevent rot.
To dry your flowers, bring them inside and place them on a screen to allow for airflow. If you do not have a screen, place them on newspaper, but flip them every day. Do not wash the heads or place in direct sunlight. Once they are completely dry, you can store them in a sealed container, preferably glass.
Dried flowers can be used to make infused oils, teas, and any dish you would like to add beautiful gold color to and a unique and slightly spicy and bitter kick. If you would like to use the petals fresh, you can steep to make a tea, add them to bath water, or soak them in vodka to create a tincture.
Since the times of ancient Romans and Greeks, this edible herb of a flower has been used in religious ceremonies and for medicinal purposes. The name Calendula originated from the ancient Romans due to the fact it was said to have bloomed the first day of each month (kalend or calend) and was a symbol for happiness. It has been used for centuries in Mediterranean and Middle Eastern cooking, and also often found in German soups, giving it the nickname pot marigold. Due to Calendula’s anti-inflammatory, and antiseptic properties it has been, and continues to be used, to heal wounds, improve eyesight, improve mood, ease digestive issues, and treat skin conditions.
Calendula, being considered an edible flower and/or herb, has negligible calories, fat, protein, and carbohydrates. However, this subtle honey scented flower does contain lutein, beta-carotene, calendic and linoleic fatty acids, and monoterpene and sesquiterpene essential oils. These are what give this bright little flower its health properties mentioned above.
A warning when it comes to Calendula. While it has many health benefits, Calendula shouldn’t be used or consumed by those that are allergic to plants in the Asteraceae family, such as ragweed, chamomile and Echinacea. Calendula has also been known to promote menstruation, therefore pregnant or breastfeeding women, or those seeking to become pregnant, should avoid Calendula as it can potentially cause miscarriages. Calendula can also negatively interact with sedatives and diabetic and blood pressure medications.
If Calendula is something you want to try, I find the best way to use it is to make an infused oil out of it. Doing so allows you to cook with it, add it to salads, or any other recipe else you would normally use olive oil in. To create an infused oil follow these simple steps:
Calendula Infused Oil
Olive Oil (you can also use Avocado Oil)
Dried Calendula petals
Place enough Calendula petals in a clean, dry glass jar to fill it half full
Pour enough oil in until the petals are covered by 1 inch of oil (it’s ok if the petals float)
Cover jar with a tight fitting lid
Place jar in a paper bag
Store near a warm, sunny window
Shake the jar twice daily
After 6 weeks, strain out the herbs using cheesecloth or fine meshed sieve
Pour the remaining oil in a clean, glass jar
Store in a cool, dark location
You can speed the process up by slow cooking the jars in a water bath for 6 hours after the oil and petals are combined. However, I find this does not make as nice of an oil as the 6 week process. A little patience goes a long way.
Beautiful, bright, and stunning, Calendula is an exquisite edible to grow in your garden and keep in your kitchen and/or medicine cabinet. It benefits your garden, your health, and cooking. Calendula is a sunny bright bloom that does wonders and is wonderful to have around.
Ehrlich, S. June 22, 2015. University of Maryland Medical Center. Complementary and Alternative Medicine Guide. Herb. Calendula. http://www.umm.edu/health/medical/altmed/herb/calendula