Calendula Officinalis: Herb of the Year 2008

Calendula—a Golden Herb for Garden and Kitchen

| February/March 2008

  • Grace Scharr McEnaney
  • Cornmeal gives these cookies crunch and color.
    Susan Belsinger
  • Morning glory: These hearty muffins can be ready in less than an hour.
    Joe Coca
  • ‘Art Shades’
    Susan Belsinger
  • ‘Sherbet Fizz’
    Susan Belsinger
  • Calendula petals and salad greens turn this home-style egg salad into a special luncheon dish, suitable for the first garden party of spring.
    Nate Skow
  • Use a flat-bottomed glass to press cookies before baking.
    Susan Belsinger
  • Take your pick: Sunny pot marigolds bloom in dozens of shapes and hues.
    Susan Belsinger
  • Single-petaled ‘Yellow’
    Susan Belsinger

Description: Hardy annual thrives in the cooler temperatures of spring and fall. Bears bright daisylike flowers, 1 to 3 inches across, on carefree 8- to 30-inch plants.

Start seed indoors 4 to 6 weeks before the average frost-free date; transplant 4-week-old seedlings outdoors. Or, sow seed directly in the garden as soon as soil can be worked in spring. Thin to 10 to 12 inches apart.

Full sun; try partial shade in hottest areas. Loam soil amended with compost.

In hot climates, sow seed in late summer to early fall for bloom in fall or early next spring. Try heat-resistant cultivars such as ‘Pacific Beauty’.

Helpful Sidebars:

• All That Glitters
• Golden Inspiration 

Calendula Recipes:

• Calendula Cornmeal Crisps
• Calendula Cornbread
• King Cake with Calendula
• Banana Cake with Calendula
• Maple Cream Cheese Frosting
• Egg Salad with Calendula and Chives  

Calendula, named 2008 Herb of the Year by the International Herb Association, is among the most colorful herbs for the garden and kitchen. Known also as the poet’s marigold or pot marigold, calendula brightens garden beds, pots, vases and culinary creations from spring to frost (or beyond) with its sunny flowers.

The flowers smell like honey, slightly spicy and woody—reminiscent of fresh rhubarb or angelica flowers—and their flavor is pleasantly mild and vegetable-sweet. Traditionally, the golden petals were used to flavor and color broths (hence the nickname “pot marigold”), butter and cheese. The dried petals even were used as a saffron substitute because they impart a rich golden color. In my own kitchen, I use calendula in vegetable dishes, salads—particularly egg salad—custards and puddings, herb butters, baked goods, with grains and in mild-mannered soups.

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