Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Calendula Harvest

This is my first year growing my own calendula - usually I just buy the petals for my salve. But seeing as how many people regard it as a weed, how hard can it be to grow?

It's a sort of tallish, spindley plant, with one big flowerhead on each spindle. It's also known as pot marigold (some of my readers (you know who you are) will be disappointed, as it is neither pot nor a proper marigold).

The official name calendula is Calendula officinalis, and it is not related to the common marigold, but instead to the daisy or chrysanthemum.

But, just like pot, it is edible - you can actually pick those petals and add them to soups or mashed potatoes (along with garlic) to give them a beautiful golden color. The flavor is similar to pumpkin or squash. A handful of petals goes a long way in rice, carrot cake, chicken and dumplings or cream of mushroom soup.

Calendula can be directly seeded with the mature plants growing from 8" to 18" tall. Don't be afraid to cut the flowerheads, as this only encourages more budding. If flowerheads are left, it will self-seed, but generally doesn't become a nuisance. Calendula (the name just rolls off my tongue) is an annual, or a very short-lived perennial.

Petals can be used fresh or dried (NOTE: Dry the entire flowerhead, but only use the petals themselves in your recipes). Harvest in the late morning, after the dew has dried. To dry the petals for later use, spread the flowerheads in a thin layer in a dry shady spot, until they reach a thin papery consistency. Store in an airtight glass container.

Those of you who know me in real life understand that cooking is not my forte -I'd just as soon order out - so my calendula is destined for my herbal salves.

Calendula is loaded with carotenoids which means it's great for healing damaged skin and regenerating skin cells. Think gardening hands, diaper rash, dry skin, skinned knees, burns, etc. Out of all the recipes I found on the net, not one includes rosemary - but mine does, for several reasons: while calendula is an anti-inflammatory and an antibiotic, I like to err on the side of cauion by including a double dose of antiseptic - and rosemary is the best. This way, while the calendula is rebuilding skin cells, the rosemary is cleansing the wound.

Calendula Salve

2-3 cups Calendula Petals

1 cup of rosemary needles

Olive Oil (also antibacterial)

2 oz. Beeswax (slice into chips so it melts easily)

For those who prefer scented salves, add several drops Rose or Lavender Oil

To make your salve creamier add 1 oz. Lanolin or 1/2 oz. Glycerin

* Recipe can be proportionately increased if you need larger quantities *

To start, put calendula petals and rosemary needles into glass container, cover in olive oil. Cap tightly and let sit for two weeks.

After letting the petals and needles soak for two weeks, pour through a strainer into a small crock pot ($10 at the big box store). This removes the plant matter, leaving only the infused oil.

With the crock pot on the highest setting, slice the beeswax into slivers and small chips. Stir as it melts. If you choose to add lanolin or glycerin or essential oils for fragrance, do it now.

After the beeswax has melted, test the consistency of the mixture by putting a small amount in a milk cap, or a bottle cap,and then setting in the freezer - this will harden it within a few minutes and you can try it to see if it's creamy enough. To make it creamier add a little extra olive oil *or* lanolin *or* glycerin (for the love of god do not add all three, or it will never solidify again).

Run a second "creaminess" test if needed, and while it's hardening in the freezer, get your containers ready. Over the years I have discovered that while I have many beautiful large glass jars, the best salve containers are the tiny glass ones that are shallow and can be thrown in my purse and handed out to friends.

When pouring the salve into the containers BE CAREFUL. This mixture is HOT. When the containers are full, cap tightly and set in the frig or freezer to cool.

That's it. All the benefits of calendula are now yours.

For more salvemaking info, with photos, here's a previous post from last year's comfrey salve session.

Monday, May 23, 2011

Finally Coming in From the Garden

Another summer in the garden starts .... and it starts late, thanks to massive disorganization on my part, major life changes at home, and generally too much to do in too little time....just like everyone else reading this.

Took two days to get all the seedlings potted, waterplants moved out of the greenhouse, hanging plants hung, and seeds spread.

This year I have calendula - the flower petals go in my comfrey salve (but can be eaten fresh too).

Lime Basil is added to the basil collection this year...

Along with the Boxwood Basil and Greek Basil..

And the Magic Michael Basil with the fuzzy fragrant purple tops.

Nessie was suppose to have her own water garden this year - that's not going to happen, so instead she's guarding pots of sage, rosemary and jalapeno peppers. I use the jalapeno peppers to make non-toxic insect spray for the vegetable plants later in the summer.

The larger pots of sage and rosemary are thriving, but the sage I wintered over (the red pot)got very spindlely last month and had to be cut back - it lasted all winter, and produced enough leaves to keep me in sage rinse from October to March. Now that its outside I've cut it way down, and new sprouts are already coming out.

Right next to the Magic Michael Basil are the tomatos, two plants to a large pot with several pots. And in spite of my plans, I ended up planting two rows of tomatos and peppers out in the yard gardens - along with a large area of ground covering gourds (noticed today the gourds are up - dipper, nest egg, and apple gourds).

Remember when I bought these last fall? Finally got them together, and as of this week planted. They were meant to go inside over the winter, and this next year will do just that. But the trial run this summer is outdoors, and includes tomatoes planted upside down..

Top trays have green peppers, rosemary, and blue sage. Since this was taken, the top trays have been mulched with straw to keep moisture close to the roots.

These were the recommended plants, but I'm wondering exactly how the watering will accomodate the water-thirsty tomatos and peppers as well as the sage and rosemary that prefer drier soil.

My ancient oregano plant is popping back out - wasn't really sure it would make it again this year.

This is my fourth year lavender - it winters over in the greenhouse and usually blooms a second time in February.

More sage, more oregano, more rosemary.... I use large amounts of each of these in homemade Italian Seasoning, sage rinse, and comfrey/rosemary salve (rosemary is an antibiotic).

At the very top of the Swing Garden, next to the spiral evergreens, is the Monarda Jacob Cline, probably the Monarda variety with the biggest blooms. This plant will be approximately three feet tall, covered with large red flowers and the butterflies that love them.

While I was straightening out the Swing Garden, Boss showed up and decided I had it under control. He actually lives three houses and a field down, with Miss Joyce the Librarian, but has adopted our house as his summer home.

Nothing fazes Boss - not even our noisy barking dogs.