Marigold (Calendula officinalis)
Merry marigold, the cheerful emoji sunshine face of this easy to grow herb cannot fail to add a splash of colour to any garden and can be relied on to bring a smile to your face. It gives its blooms generously while offering a variety of uses, cosmetic, medicinal and last but never least, culinary.
Marigolds have played a colourful role in the kitchen since ancient times, getting a mention in records from Indians, Arabs and ancient Greeks, and today of course Marigold has taken a place in our hearts as a girl’s name.
Freshly picked marigold petals and some young tender leaves cannot fail to pep up a summer salad of the leaf or fruit variety. Garnished in this way your salad may well look much the same as a mixed salad gracing the table of many a Greek all those years ago. Why not add mint and lemon balm too to ring the changes.
Marigold flowers will enhance not only salads but soups, home baking and omelettes. Try freezing the petals in ice cubes to add a zing to your spritzer, or simply infuse in hot water with mint for a refreshingly different cup of tea, served hot or cold on a summer’s day.
The common name of marigold in associated with the Virgin Mary earning the nickname ‘Mary’s gold’, and pot marigolds are one of the very earliest flowers believed to be in cultivation no doubt for their looks as well as their other uses; indeed Vita Sackville-West, author, poet and famous gardener, called marigolds ‘Summer’s quick delight’. They have been described as ‘a comforter of the heart and spirits’, little wonder when you see them bathed in hot sunshine.
Calendula is used in many skin treatments, its active compounds combatting inflammation while its carotenoids and flavonoids help protect and strengthen the skin. Calming, hydrating and gentle, it is popular in products for young children and babies. A final point for you, the Romans used the juice from the flowers to treat warts.
Marigolds grow easily from seed and, once established, will self seed freely. They aren’t a fussy herb but do like the sun. Deadhead during summer to prolong the flowering season.
‘Golds’, Scotch marigold, marybud and holigold