Everyone has heard of “Pot Marigold” but just few people have grown them and even less have tasted them. If you enjoy the novelty of using edible flowers in your meals, you should consider growing Calendula because it is such a reliable bloomer. Calendula plants are easy to grow and are fairly simple to start from the seeds, making them perfect for beginner gardeners, and especially kids.
Calendula is known by the common names of Pot Marigold or English Marigold. Calendula officinalis is an aromatic annual plant that belongs to the Asteraceae family. Typically, it grows to about half a meter in height. The stems are straight and ramified; the leaves are oblong-lanceolate, hairy on both sides and 5 to 15 cm long with toothed margins. Calendula flowers range in colour from creamy lemon yellow to apricot and bright orange. The flower-heads appear all year around. Calendula petals have a lightly bitter flavour but they have almost no fragrance. They’re used in all kinds of recipes, from butter to wine, but they are mostly favored for their intense color.
Although Calendula officinalis is commonly called "Pot Marigold", they are not in the same genus as the common marigold, Tagetes. Calendula is in the same family as daisies and chrysanthemums and the similarity can be seen in their daisy-like flowers. Pot Marigolds are considered companion plants that keep insects away. Many gardeners grow them among their vegetable crops.
In India Calendula officinalis flowers are used to decorate altars of Temples; the Greeks and Persians used it in cooking as a garnish for stews and soups, and in Europe it was used to colour butter and cheese. Calendula is an excellent skin healer and can be made and added to creams and used to treat anything from acne to open wounds.
As a culinary herb Calendula is used in preparation of many dishes. The addition of fresh and tender calendula flowers and leaves to salads and raw vegetable mixtures is an excellent idea. The chopped or whole petals of freshly plucked calendula flowers can also be added to tossed salads. The whole flower was used as a garnish in medieval times.
Calendula petals can also be used in fresh, dried, or powdered form to add color and to bring a bittersweet flavor to different foods, including some kinds of sea foods, to chowders and soups, to flavor stews and rice, to add flavor to roast meats and vegetable dishes, or to spice up chicken dishes.
Calendula officinalis can act as a substitute in any recipe requiring the use of saffron flowers. Calendula is cheaper than saffron, the color imparted to the food is of a similar vibrant hue, and however, the flavor is different and equally delicious.
The antiseptic and astringent effects of the calendula come in handy in the treatment of many conditions affecting the human body. A variety of ailments were traditionally treated using the calendula, which has one of the longest history as a herbal medical plant.
Calendula officinalis heals wounds as well as internal and external ulcers. It improves blood flow to the affected area. As an antifungal agent, it can be used to treat athlete's foot, ringworm, and Candida. The tincture applied to cold sores encourages healing. Calendula cream is good for acne and diaper rash. An infusion is good for digestion and relieves colitis and symptoms of menopause. An infusion of the petals can be used as a rinse to lighten and brighten hair.
The primary use of the Calendula plant, however, has always been in the role of a local topical application to boost healing of a wound and to prevent the infection. The calendula is prescribed by most modern herbalists in the form of an herbal tea, as an herbal infusion, or in ointment form - the remedies are used in healing a variety of conditions.
How to make Calendula Cream
For a natural remedy for mild skin complaints such as acne, dry skin and even open wounds, add 2 handfuls of calendula flowers to 1tbsp lanolin, 5tbsp olive oil and 1tbsp beeswax and heat gently. Mix together; take off the heat and leave to set. The following morning re-heat the mixture, strain into a sterile jar and leave to harden.