The pot marigold is so called because it was added to pottage (a kind of stew), not because it is grown in a pot. Calendula petals have been used for culinary purposes since ancient times. Their use was certainly documented in ancient Rome, while Culpeper (1616 –1654) explained that it was common to dry and store the petals for winter use, when they were added to soups, stews and porridge.
The petals have long been used as a cheap substitution for the very expensive saffron. Certainly, all the bags of ‘saffron’ I saw in the souks of Egypt were marigold petals!
Marigold petals add colour and flavour to rice, chowder, custard soups, cream cheese or yogurt dips and potato salad. Add them to baked goods and egg dishes or use as a garnish for salads and vegetables. They can be candied, made into wine, vinegar, marigold buns, or added to cordials. Historically, marigold petals were used for colouring butter and cheese. To give up their colour, they must be bruised and finely chopped.
Marigold Curd Cheese
1 litre whole milk
1 tsp vinegar (or vegetable rennet)
1 tbsp. marigold petals
Pour the milk into a pan with the petals and salt. Bring to the boil, take off the heat and stir in the vinegar. Leave it to stand for 10 minutes. The mixture will curdle, the curds rising to the top, and the whey (the watery part of the milk) sinking to the bottom. Set a muslin cloth over a bowl and use a slotted spoon to scoop the curds into it. Tie up the corners, suspend it over the bowl and leave to drip for at least 4 hours. Unwrap and put into a covered dish in the fridge. Will keep for 3 days refrigerated.
70 gm fresh petals
100 gm butter or margarine.
Combine the ingredients and spread on scones, bread etc. Will keep in the fridge for 2-3 days.
1 litre/ 2 pints of marigold petals
225 gm/ 8 oz raisins
1.1 kilo/2½ lbs sugar
4 litres/ 7 pints water
Yeast and nutrient
Put the petals, the juice and zest of an orange into a brewing bin. Heat the water and stir in the sugar until it has dissolved. Pour it over the petals. When the liquid has cooled to lukewarm, add the yeast and nutrient. Cover and stir daily for 4-5 days. Strain the liquid into a demijohn and add the raisins. Fit an airlock and leave to ferment out. Strain into a clean demijohn and leave for 6 months. Bottle.
Make sure you correctly identify your plant as Calendula officinalis, the pot marigold as other types of plants that are called marigold can be toxic. Preparations of calendula flower are considered safe for most people, but to be on the safe side, do not take internally if you are pregnant or breastfeeding, for two weeks before surgery, or if you are using prescription sedatives.
© Anna Franklin, The Hearth Witch’s Garden Herbal, forthcoming, Llewellyn, 2023