Monday, October 13, 2008

Herb of the Year-Calendula

I thought today was National Herb Day. It was Saturday, October 11, 2008. Oops! Oh well, they said on the website that it could be celebrated any day. So today I'm celebrating. Whoo Hoo! My pictures make the flower look like puffs when they are actually ray flowers like a daisy.

Calendula officinalis is an edible flower and is a native flower of North Africa, Europe and Iran. They self-sow easily in our climate, and grow wherever they find a home, whether you want them there or not! Calendula seeds should be planted when the night temps are at least in the 40's or after daytime temperatures are in the 60's. Purchasing fresh seed assures good germination. Calendulas boom best in full sun, but will bloom adequately in part shade, and they grow well in just about any garden soil. Flowers start to appear in June and they will continue to bloom until frost. The flowers close at night and reopen in the day.

In the language of flowers, calendula means sacred affections, joy, remembrance and grief. Traditionally, the golden petals were used to color broths, butter and cheese (hence the common name "pot marigold"). The petals can be used either whole or chopped. When dried, the petals are chewy, so it is best to chop or run them through a food processor before you add them to a recipe. Calendulas were also known as "poor man's saffron" for the golden color it imparts to dishes, rather than the flavor. You can use the petals in sugar, as an infusion in milk for baked goods, sauces and gravies and in salads of any kind, including fruit salads. Calendula's bright color and lack of fragrance makes them a useful accent in potpourri.

Here is an easy calendula cookie recipe from Renee Shepherd's & Fran Raboff's cookbook, Recipes from a Kitchen Garden:


The petals from 6 to 8 fresh calendula blossoms (2 or 3 T. dried)
½ c. butter, at room temperature
½ c. white sugar
Grated zest of two oranges (orange part of the peel only)
2 T. orange concentrate, at room temperature
1 t. vanilla
2 eggs, lightly beaten
2 c. all purpose flour
2 ½ t. baking powder
¼ t. salt
1 c. almond halves

Preheat oven to 350° F. Lightly grease 2 cookie sheets. Rinse calendulas (if using fresh petals). Pull off petals and set aside. Do not rinse if using dried. Fresh or dried, chop the petals finely or process in a food processor. In a bowl, cream butter, sugar and orange rind until fluffy. Add orange juice concentrate and vanilla. Mix in eggs, stirring until blended. Sift together flour, baking powder and salt. Blend calendula petals and dry ingredients into creamed mixture. Drop dough by teaspoonfuls onto cookie sheet. Press an almond half into each cookie. Bake 12 to 15 minutes until golden brown. Makes 3 to 4 dozen.

They are really yummy! Hope you enjoy them.

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