Sunday, July 12, 2009

The best $1.29 I ever spent

It was for a little packet of seeds from a seed catalogue, many years ago. Ah, calendula! Wikipedia has this to say about it:

"Calendula officinalis, known as Pot Marigold or Scotch Marigold, is a plant in the Calendula genus. It was used in ancient Greek, Roman, Arabic and Indian cultures as a medicinal herb as well as a dye for fabrics, foods and cosmetics.

"The leaves and petals of the Pot Marigold are edible, with the petals added to dishes as a garnish and in lieu of saffron. The leaves can be sweet but are more commonly bitter, and may be used in salads.

"Calendula officinalis is a cultivated herb and can be grown easily in sunny locations in most kinds of soils."

It certainly likes my garden. Here's a little photo-essay of its progress.

Below, you see a little vignette of calendula seeds (the gnarly maggot-shaped things on the ground) as well as a few sprouts and a very small plant. The plant is small because it is growing upon the home of, as the Dalai Lama puts it, my friends, the enemy, a colony of black ants located in prime garden space with sunny view over the sempervivum and the sunken garden.

Calendula is a slow starter, but it really gets going around the end of June, and will bloom from mid-July well into autumn. Here's a little bud:

A bigger bud:

Starting to open....


And opening...strange and eerily beautiful, is it not?

The petals develop:

The finished flower. This is my first bloom of the season, from yesterday:

Unfortunately, I don't have a photo of the calendula flower gone to seed. That will have to wait for part 2 of this series later in the summer, but it is supremely impressive in a somewhat creepy, alien way...

I've never tried cooking with calendula. A substitute for saffron, eh?

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