CALENDULA – January Herb of the Month
by Barbara Porsch – Herb Enthusiast
I decided to talk about Calendula -Calendula officianalis – this month because IF you can find it, now is a good time to plant it in your garden. For years, I tried to get it to sell at our plant sale. Finally soaked in that now is the time to plant it – not spring. And, yes, I have seen it in local nurseries recently.
A couple of years ago, at Christmas I went to a lovely nursery in Tomball called Arbor Gate and found some. If you are ever in that area don’t miss going to check them out. Anyway, I digress. Brought them home and planted them in my garden (only sunny spot I have) even though I had read NOT to plant them in the garden. I discovered why. They do reseed! But shucks, nothing else was growing so why not?
The Calendula is in the Asteraceae family along with Sunflowers and Daisy. They are also called Pot Marigold. The young hairy leaves can be used in salads and soups. I have not. The flowers will give a slightly sweet flavor to salads or soup and can be used in rice and fish dishes. The petals can be pulled from the blossom and air dried to be used as a substitute for saffron which is very expensive or used in potpourri. A yellow dye can be made by boiling the flowers in water. A strong infusion made from the petals has been shown to kill some bacteria and fungi which gives some validation to all the folk cures that have been given to Calendula—everything from burns, bruises and cuts to measles an chicken pox..
All Calendula needs is sun and well-drained soil. Although I started with transplants, it looks like it would be very easy to start from seed in early fall. Try it. One thing for sure is that it will really brighten up your herb bed, garden or landscaping.