The calendula herb is also known as pot marigold. This bright flowering herb is common in gardens and allotments and has many versatile uses both in the kitchen and garden. Its blossoms range in colour from pale yellow to lemon and golden orange and appear from early July right through to late autumn in the UK. Calendula is a native of Asia and southern and central Europe, however it is well adapted to growing in the UK climate. Calendula blossoms are edible, however the leaves are not suitable for eating.
Calendula blossoms have been eaten since ancient times and have medicinal values as well as nutritional values. They have many uses in the kitchen, from helping improve the colour of cheeses and egg yolks to brightening up green salads. They have a tangy, peppery taste, which brings a zing to salads. Calendula blossoms can also be added to soups or cream cheese to add a dash of colour and a mild peppery flavour.
Calendula flowers can be used as a substitute to saffron, and will bring about a delicate saffron colour to cooking. You can also add them to sauces, tarts, preserves, pickles, fritters and soft cheeses.
Growing and Picking Flowers for Eating
Calendula flowers are only edible if they are grown organically or only sprayed with organic pesticides such as those, which are occasionally used on organically-grown fruits and vegetables. Flowers that are bought from florists, nurseries or garden centres are commercially grown to be used as cut flowers or decoration in the garden and have often been treated with chemical fertilisers or pesticides to keep them looking at their best. Buying some organic calendula seeds and growing them organically will ensure they will not have any potential harmful side effects when you eat them.
The best time to pick your homegrown calendula flowers is in late morning, once the blooms have opened (they close at night and when it rains). Only use fresh blossoms (that have been harvested in the last two days) that are not damaged by disease, weather or insect infestations (such as aphids). Carefully remove the stems and pistils and any white inner petal tips from the bud (these can often taste bitter). Wash the flower petals thoroughly before adding them to your food.
Calendula blossoms have been used in cooking since ancient times. They have a tangy, peppery taste and can liven up salads and soups. They can also be used to spice up and colour a range of dishes including sauces, tarts, preserves, pickles, fritters and soft cheeses. The orange colour can be used as a substitute for saffron and may be used to improve the colour of cheese and egg yolks. The flowers should be grown organically to avoid ingesting artificial pesticides and fertiliser residues and harvested in the morning once the blooms have opened. Wash the flowers thoroughly before using them in cooking and strip away any bitter-tasting white, inner petal tips from the bud. Calendula is a fun herb to cook with and has many varied uses in the kitchen.