Thursday, April 14, 2011

It's spring--where is your calendula?

Calendula, or marigold, is an invaluable flower to any herbalist. It has soothing, healing properties, making it a great additive in salves and balms. It is also useful as a tea for various internal needs, like digestion. And, according to 17th century herbalists, nothing is better than calendula when you feel a touch of "plague and pestilence" coming on. All in all, it's pretty handy. Besides all this, it's a beautiful flower and easy to grow.So, here is an example to show you why growing and drying your own calendula is the way to go. The bowl on the right is a sample of some calendula that I received from a mail order company. On the left is calendula I dried myself last summer. And, I must confess, I have not stored it correctly (in a dark place) but instead, it has been sitting on my kitchen counter for the last nine months. The color is still beautiful and vibrant, which makes me wonder how fresh my "mail order" calendula is and how much of its benefits remain.


I only had about 5 calendula plants last year, so I'm planting a much bigger patch of these beautiful yellow-orange flowers this year. Since my patch was so small, I wasn't able to harvest as much as I wanted, but I did have enough for several small batches of calendula-infused oil. And it is so easy to collect calendula petals! When I walked past the flower bed I checked for any blossoms that were beginning to fade and just pinched them off. In fact, I was so diligent in harvesting the petals, that I didn't let any blossoms self-seed. I've read that the plants often seed themselves, so this year I'll be sure to leave a few of them alone so I won't have to plant more the next year.

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