[Pot Marigold; Calendula officinalis | Imeruli Shaphrani (Georgia); French Marigold Tagetes patula alt Tagates remotiflora]
Calendula officinalis is well known in North America as a
medicinal tea ingredient and for fresh petals scattered on salads to
add color interest. Fresh leaves have been used in salads and as a
pot herb, but palatability varies. In former times, flowers were tossed
into soups in Germany, thus the name "Pot Marigold". In the cuisine of
Georgia (former Soviet Republic of), marigold petals (Tagetes
patula) are a very important herbal flavoring. The dried petals are
very aromatic. Powdered, they add both color and an earthy aroma to many
recipes. Photo of C. officinalis by TeunSpaans
contributed to the Public Domain .
Buying: The Georgian variety isn't much available outside of Georgia, so we have to make do with C. officinalis. I have not seen even that in markets here in Southern California, even those with the most complete herb sections. It is, however, easily available on the Internet because of its use as a medicinal tea. It is sold in two forms, dried petals and dried flowers. For tea, whole flowers are fine, but to use as an herb in Georgian cuisine, dried petals, as shown in the photo, are much more usable. The high quality petals in the photo were purchased on-line for US 2013 $2.99 / ounce, plus shipping, which brought them to $4.41 / ounce (3 ounces purchased).
Storing: Do not grind until ready to use. In a tightly sealed container stored in a cool place out of direct sunlight, dried petals should last at least 6 months.
Health & Nutrition: While this is a medicinal plant, the amounts used in cooking should be entirely harmless. Medicinally, calendula has been found to be antibacterial and antifungal. Apparently, there are other non-medicinal applications - the package the photo specimens came in suggested, "protection, prophetic dreams, legal matters, psychic powers, aids visionary sight", presumably as tea.