Calendula officials, also known as pot marigold, is a lovely flowering herb that is both edible and medicinal. Learn how to grow, harvest and dry calendula, to make use of its natural healing properties.
Calendula is a lovely plant to have in the garden with its lovely colourful flowers, but did you know that it makes an excellent companion plant, helping to repel pests, as well as being pollinator-friendly, attracting bees and butterflies.
The bright blooms of this herb can be sprinkled fresh of dried on salads, as an addition to many dishes such as scrambled eggs or frittatas or even in soups and stews.
It is also used in many natural skin care products with its ability to help in aiding with the easing and healing of many skin conditions such as rashes, acne, wounds, scrapes, and eczema. With its natural antiseptic and anti-inflammatory and anti-viral properties, it works to help with repairing cells.
It is also gentle enough to use on babies, helping in the treatment of cradle cap, diaper rash and other skin irritations.
How to Grow Calendula
This lovely herb comes in a variety of shades of orange, yellow, red and even peach. This very low-mainuenenace plant performs best in rich, well-draining soil, though it can tolerate a variety of other soils, in containers as well as in garden beds. It is tolerate to both heat and cold, it grows better in full-sun, though in our hot climate, it still thrives in some late afternoon shade. It enjoys a moderate supply of water, and grow easily from seeds planted directly in the garden bed or pot or from seeds that fall directly off the plant.
Powdery mildew is a condition that can affect these plants, but given enough space allowing lots of airflow, help reduce the risk of this.
If using the flowers to eat, use fresh off the plant, storing in a container in the fridge for a couple of days. For using to make salves, teas and other uses, drying is needed.
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Tips for Harvesting
The best time to harvest the flowers are in the morning after the dew has dried and the blooms have freshly opened. To harvest, simply pick or cut off the flower where it meets the stem. When the petals are beginning to wither, then they are past the point of use. These ones are best kept for seeds saving. I tend to cut back the stems from the flowers I cut off to help stop it from beginning to rot.
It seems the more flowers you take, the more will come. Plan on collecting flowers every couple of days. The blooms that are uncollected will freely re-seed, so if you don’t want this happening, collect the spent flowers before the seeds dry and start dispersing.
How to Dry Calendula
There are many ways to properly – 100% completely – dry calendula flowers for use. Drying just the petals will be quicker and decrease the chance of mould however, it is a lot more time consuming.
Don’t wash the flowers before drying, just give them a gentle shake to make sure there are no insects or dust lodged in them. Dry them in a well-ventilated, dry location such as a cloth, screen or mesh frame or a hanging drying rack, tossing every so often to ensure they are drying evenly
You can dehydrate calendula flowers in a dehydrator using a very low setting around 35˚C / 95˚F or less. Gently lay the blooms/petals face down on the racks and dry until they are dry.
Conditioning Dried Calendula
Once the calendula has been full dehydrated, it will need to be conditioned to be kept without going off. Fill a jar about two-thirds full and seal the lid. Over the next week or so, shake the jar a couple of times a day. If you start to see mould, they will need to be thrown out. If you see moisture, they are not dried enough, and need to be placed back into the dehydrator.
Once they have been conditioned, the jars can be fulled completely and stored in a cool, dark place. If they do start to have a strong smell or you can see moisture in the jars, it is time to dehydrate another batch of calendula.
Storing Dried Calendula
Store your dried blooms in an airtight glass jars out of direct sunlight and use within a year. Make sure you condition first, to make sure they are fully, 100% completely dry. The petals will fell wispy but fragile, pulling easily out of the heads.
One easy way to enjoy your dried calendula is in a lovely calendula tea. Using a loose-leaf tea infuser, steep 1-2 TBSP of dried petals in 225g hot water for about 8 – 10 minutes.