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Calendula

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Calendula

The sunny face of calendula, or pot marigold, is a year-round delight in our herb beds, especially in the fall when all around other plants are succumbing to declining light and temperature.

The sunny face of calendula, or pot marigold, is a year-round delight in our herb beds, especially in the fall when all around other plants are succumbing to declining light and temperature. This hardy, beautiful and useful herb will continue to bloom until the first frost.

One appealing Greek legend concerning calendula is about the four wood nymphs who fell in love with Apollo, the sun god. The nymphs became so jealous of each other that they neglected their duties to Apollo’s sister, the goddess Diana. She turned them into four dull-white marigolds. This upset Apollo. He countered by sending down his most brilliant rays to color them gold.

Calendula prefers a rich loam and full sun, but will grow in most soils and partial shade. A self-seeding annual, it can become quite invasive if grown in ideal conditions.

The word calendula comes from the Latin calens (the same root as calendar), meaning the first day of the month, because the Romans thought that this was when the plant bloomed. Christians called it Amarygold or Amarybud because its blooming coincided with festivals celebrating the Virgin Mary. Other names for the herb include: summer’s bride, husbandman’s dial, holigold and a poor man’s saffron because its color and mild peppery taste make it an excellent and inexpensive substitute for the Spanish condiment.

Medicinally, calendula has proven itself as an effective skin conditioner for cuts, scrapes, wounds and burns. It is beneficial for diaper rash and for soothing nipples that are sore from breast-feeding. To make your own calendula cream add three grams of flower petals to two cups [500] of very good oil, preferably extra virgin olive oil. Place in a double boiler and gently heat for two hours. Remove from the heat and strain out the petals. Place fresh petals in the oil and repeat the gentle heating for another two hours. Strain out the calendula flowers again. Add three grams of beeswax, gently stirring over the heat until the wax and oil have blended. Allow to cool in clean jars before sealing.

Calendula also makes a delightful tea, especially when combined with lemon balm. (One caveat: If you’re allergic to ragweed, you might react to pot marigold also.)

For culinary use of calendula, here’s my favorite recipe. I always use long-grain brown rice for its superior taste and nutritional qualities, but basmati rice can be substituted:

Romance Rice for Two

1 medium onion, diced
2 tsp (10 mL) extra virgin olive oil
1 cup (250 mL) fresh, rinsed calendula petals
1 cup (250 mL) of water
1/2 vegetable or herbed bouillon cube
1/2 cup (125 mL) of rinsed brown rice

Saut?he onion in the olive oil in a small, heavily lidded pot. Take half of the calendula petals and add them to the cup of water in a blender. Blend well and then pour the liquid over the onions. Add the half bouillon cube to the water and bring to a boil. Add the rice while stirring. Turn the heat to simmer, cover and cook until the water is absorbed, usually 40-45 minutes for brown rice. When the rice is ready, stir in the rest of the calendula petals. This makes a perfect carbohydrate side dish.

Whether your application is culinary or medicinal never use edible flowers that have been grown commercially. Only use plants that you know have not been subjected to herbicides or pesticides. This includes plants from your own garden. If you use herbicides or pesticides, keep them well away from the beds of any plants you plan to eat. Washing them isn’t good enough. The plants will absorb these poisons and so will you.

Calendula Corn Muffins:

1 cup (250 mL) stone-ground cornmeal
3/4 cup (185 mL) whole grain, spelt or kamut flour
2 tsp (10 mL) baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
2 extra-large free-range eggs
1 cup (250 mL) milk (non-dairy such as soy may be substituted)
3 Tbsp (45 mL) coconut butter, melted
3/4 cup (185 mL) white cheddar cheese, grated
1 cup (250 mL) of corn kernels, fresh or frozen and thawed
1/4 cup (60 mL) of calendula petals.

Butter a muffin tin and preheat oven to 190°C (375°F). In a mixing bowl combine the cornmeal, flour, baking powder and salt. In another bowl, beat the eggs and add the milk and butter, blending well. Stir the cheese and corn into the wet ingredients. Pour the wet ingredients into the dry and blend. Stir the calendula petals into the batter. Fill the muffin tins almost full. Bake for 20 minutes or until golden brown. Let stand for five minutes before serving.

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