Monday, May 30, 2011

Edible Flowers!

Happy Memorial Day!

This was orignally my big planting weekend when I first started growing herbs.  Then we would take time out for the Memorial Day Parade in Wheaton (IL).  Now we take time out for the Parade and Service in Elmhurst (IL).  But still I always want to plant something so this year I decided it would be my Scented Marigolds.  I'll be growing htem from seed.

Here is some information on Scented Marigold for you and maybe you will join me!

Marigolds (Tagetes spp.) are North American native flowers that were revered by the Aztecs in Mexico, who used them in religious ceremonies, as an ornamental, and as a medical plant. They were said to relieve hiccups and the effects of being struck by lightning. No wonder they were considered magical plants.

It was the Aztecs who introduced marigolds to Spanish and Portuguese explorers. Once the seeds made it to Spain, they quickly spread throughout Europe and North Africa. In Europe the plants were called "Mary's gold," referring to the brightly colored flowers and the Virgin Mary. The tall varieties we call African marigolds were bred in North Africa. Marigolds have since circled the globe. They are used in India and Pakistan as dyes, food, and to make flower garlands as part of harvest festivals. They finally made it back to the Americas as hybrids. Most marigolds we grow are a cross between tall African (T. erecta) and dwarf French (T. patula) varieties.

Marigolds are a “sure thing” annual flower. Once established, they will bloom all summer and actually make a great fall annual, bringing color to a garden when little else is still blooming. Plus, the flowers and buds are edible, having a somewhat citrus-like flavor. 'Lemon Gem' (T. tenuifolia) is considered one of the best tasting marigold varieties.

Although not botanically related to marigolds, calendula (Calendula officinalis) is called "pot marigold" because its bright yellow flower petals resemble marigolds. It was used during Tudor times as a poor man's saffron in cooking. Calendula is native to the Mediterranean, but like marigolds, has spread throughout the world. It is used medicinally to treat wounds and sores.

While folklore has it that marigolds repel a number of insects and should be interplanted with herbs and vegetables to protect plants, the only proven pest marigolds repel are soil dwelling nematodes. French marigolds are thought to be the best at repelling some types of nematodes. The most effective way to grow them as nematode repellents is to plant a thick stand of marigolds, grow them for 3 to 4 months and then till them under like a green manure crop. They are not as effective if simply interplanted around other crops.

Harvest marigold and calendula flowers as they open in late morning for garlands, cut flowers, and edible flowers for salads, cakes, and teas. Marigolds and calendulas are easy to dry and store for later use. Spread the flowers on a screen to dry in a well-ventilated, shady location and store in glass jars. You can remove the seeds and store them, too, for sowing next spring.

~Marcy Lautanen-Raleigh

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