Calendula, Calendula officinalis, is a member of the daisy family. Besides being a happy yellow or orange splash of color in a cold-weather garden, calendula can add zing to salad, spruce up an outdoor container, or be filler in a cut arrangement of flowers.
It is an annual, easy-to-care-for flower. It attracts butterflies and is deer-resistant. Often grown as a kitchen herb, it’s spicy leaves and flowers give flavor to soups and salads. With saffron being expensive, many cooks substitute calendula for its yellow pigment.
Many cultures have used calendula in cooking, medicine, and rituals. In ancient Rome, calendula was a symbol of joy and happiness.
Calendula was a common ingredient in German soups and stews. Many Middle Eastern and Mediterranean dishes list calendula as an ingredient. Its golden petals have been used to color butter and cheese and to dye fabrics.
Sacred in India, calendula decorated the statues of Hindu gods for many centuries. Aztecs and Mayans used the flowers in religious ceremonies. Today in Mexico and Central America, many people still adorn home altars with calendula on the Day of the Dead.
Ancient cultures used calendula for its medicinal qualities. It has been used to detoxify the liver and gall bladder and as treatment for digestive issues and skin problems such as eczema. Ancient warriors understood its anti-hemorrhagic properties and treated open wounds with calendula leaves to stop bleeding. Up through World War I, calendula was used as an antiseptic in wound dressings.
Today, many people enjoy calendula tea for its tastiness as well as the health benefits of its flavonoids, plant-based antioxidants that protect cells from free radicals. As with any herb, always consult your doctor before ingesting. Calendula has been shown to interact negatively with certain types of medications, especially sedatives.
Calendula Planting Guide
Light: Full sun to part shade
Soil: Well-drained soil
Height: 1 – 2 feet
Spacing: 12 – 18 inches
Deadhead spent flowers. Pinch back to shape. If flower production wanes, use a fertilizer high in phosphorus.
2 tsp dried calendula flower petals
1 cup hot water
Steep for 10 minutes. Sweeten with honey.