5 Nov 2011

Saturday Snap: Calendula Officinalis

All summer long I've been bowled over by the wonderful bright orange blooms of the calendula (aka Pot Marigold) in the veg patch.  The seeds were sown in late May and took a while to get going but have really been making up for it over the past three months and the plants are still flowering abundantly in early November!

Calendula

The colour is such an intense orange that, despite taking numerous photos over the summer, I've never felt that they've done the flowers justice. This afternoon, just as the light was fading around 3.30 and rain threatened, I quickly tried once more and, this time, I'm quite pleased with the result.  You can just see the start of the raindrops on the petals!

Mine were grown to bring in the hoverflies and bees and did an excellent job but they also, apparently, reduce soil eelworm. They're a beautiful flower to look at, growing to about 18 inches high, but calendula is a herb and I really should have used it in cooking.  (There's still time.)

Fresh calendula petals can be sprinkled over salads and boiling the petals produces an edible yellow dye that will colour rice, hence the nickname "poor man's saffron". Dried petals can also be used to season and flavour soups and cakes. The petals should be picked early in the morning (preferably on a bright, sunny day but I think I may be a tad late for that) and dried quickly in the shade. As a bonus, the flowers are high in vitamins A and C which I didn't know before and is useful information to have at the onset of winter. Similarly, tea made from the petals will aid circulation (useful) or can be used as a hair rinse to add golden tones to auburn hair. (Not so useful, and unlikely to have me reaching for the secateurs.) Something worth noting for next year is that calendula is a good companion plant for tomatoes.  Wow, I love the idea of all those reds and oranges growing together!

Year on year I get a bit  more organised around planning in the veg patch so it's worth knowing that calendula seeds, like sweet peas and broad beans, can be sown in the autumn to give them a head start for the following year.  If they're happy where they are, they're highly likely to self-seed and I did have one or two from last year so, together with self-seeding sunflowers, nasturtiums, orache and cerinthe, it looks like the veg patch might slowly be turning into the flower garden!

8 comments:

  1. What a lovely post about a lovely flower! As you know I grow lots of pot marigolds on the plot and they are one of my favourite flowers. I find that the intense orange ones are the hardest to get good photos of.
    I let them self-seed and collect it as well so there'll be lots to see next year.
    I think that my plot is a flower garden where I grow vegetables, and perhaps that the way it should be! Flighty xx

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  2. Yes, I grew some calendula from seed this Spring too. They are wonderful, and quite hardy too. If they are deadheaded and pruned back they keep coming well into Winter.

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  3. I love their bright cheerfulness - they just keep coming and coming. I have already dried a big batch of petals to use to colour the rice when we have curry and they look really pretty sprinkled over a salad.

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  4. Beautiful photograph of a really useful plant. I am ashamed to say that I have still never quite got around to trying to use it as an edible, but I do love to see them up at the allotment.

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  5. They're such cheery flowers, and though I don't grow them at the allotment, I can just imagine how they look dotted amongst the veg.

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  6. They're such a easy plant to grow. I didn't know about them and eelworms, which is interesting. They are so cheerful. They don't last long in the vase but I'm sure I can still find a patch of ground for them next year.

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  7. I want to try using calendula in the kitchen next year as I've only grown them for the veg patch. Thanks for the tips. I had an old glass tank over my soil which brought my calendula (and some lettuce) on much earlier this year.

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  8. Flighty - thank you! I do love flower photography so was pleased with this one. I bet your allotment will be a picture next year with the promise of all those flowers! I'm particularly enjoying my deep orange nasturtiums next to my purple brussels sprouts!

    Matron - I'm going to make extra efforts with deadheading if it will keep the flowers coming!

    Elaine - I had a feeling you'd already be onto the kitchen uses for these lovely flowers! Well done.

    Janet - I love that we all seem to have introduced flowers to our vegetables! All that green can get a bit monotonous can't it!

    Jo - they're so easy to grow, maybe you should pop a few seeds in amongst your veg next year? Marvellous for attracting beneficial bugs, as well!

    Wellywoman - As much as I'm tempted to pick them and put them in a vase, I hop that leaving them in the ground gives pleasure to passers by.

    Lorna - interesting choice of cloche for your spring plants! I note from your blog that you like upcycling and here it is in action! nice one. I may try protecting my plants this year (hopefully the winter won't be too harsh) and see if that helps.

    Caro xx

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Caro x

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