Don’t you just love yellow flowers? Don’t you just hate it when you think something is called one thing, and it’s really something else?
Well, in the spirit of learning what is edible and what is not, here is a simple guide to distinguishing calendula (pot marigold) from marigold. Read first, then eat up!
Calendula was identified back in 1597 by Gerard, a horticulturist of note back in jolly olde England. Because of its colour, and the existence of a rather important queen named Mary, Calendula got its name.
That name carried on with several other yellow species. Another of the sunflower-family plants, Tagetes, began its journey around the world soon afterward. After many hybridizations, it returned to the shores of North America, where it gained the name marigold. To distinguish between the original and this hybridized version, the original, Calendula, was renamed “pot marigold.”
It is really important to note that, although they are both part of the sunflower (Asteraceae) family, only the pot marigold is edible. Some swear that they have eaten Tagetes flowers, but to be on the safe side, I would not recommend it. I have heard that it is bitter, an indication that means it could be used medicinally for intestinal maladies. The bad news is that medicinal usually means ingested by tincture or pill form, not by eating the flower.
Calendula florets are tasty and beautiful in a salad, and also nutritional in omelettes, smoothies, stir fries, and many other food types. The florets are the little petals you see in the middle of the main flower part. They are called the “disk flowers.” The larger petals are called the “ray flowers.” You want to pick the disk flowers for your salads. Make sure they are very yellow and slightly moist. The colour fades as they age, so make sure you get the freshest petals.
Put them into salsas, soups, and stews, add them to eggs, or just eat them raw. They range in colour from yellow to orange to russet to red. What a gorgeous addition to any meal!
Tea, anyone? Yes, you can add calendula florets to tea. The petals can be dried and rehydrated, so you can keep them around all year round. Make sure to dry them properly and lock them in a secure jar for freshness. They make a great addition to iced tea.
Calendula is also medicinal! It has been produced to heal wounds, burns and rashes, and can be used to sooth indigestion, reflux, and as a consumed anti-fungal medication. It can be added to chamomile and other plants to help calm anxiety. The flowers have also been used traditionally to support the immune system. Did you also know that it is believed to lift the spirits? With such beautiful colours, it’s easy to understand why!
Now that you are in love with these beautiful, nutritional pot marigolds, I’m going to show you some practical and easy ways to eat them.
The flowers have a mild saffron taste, so can be used as a subtle substitute. If you collect enough corms (at the base of the leaves — shaped like a Werther’s Original) you can roast them. Remember that the leaves are a diuretic so eat them sparingly.
Nutrition is on everyone’s minds. Well, rest assured, pot marigold is very high in vitamin K.
Now that you know the difference, you can safely decorate your breakfast, lunch, or dinner, or drink with the very versatile calendula, and your table with the very beautiful plant marigold.