I am always getting confused about which plants are being referred to when people talk about Marigolds so as always before consuming plants from the garden its vital that we know for sure which plants we are using.
The picture above is of Calendula officinalis or Pot Marigold. It is a very easy to grow annual plant in the large Asteraceae family, the Sunflower family. Also in this family is the Tagetes genus which are also called Marigolds! Confusing but important as its really only the Calendula's which can be eaten in any quantity with Tagetes being potentially dangerous in any quantity.
Calendula officinalis has been used a an important medicinal herb for many centuries, to heal wounds and boost the immune system. Officinalis refers to its use as an official plant in herbal law and Calendula is from the latin Calendae referring to how it can bloom almost right through the calendar.
Importantly for the caterer the flowers look amazing used fresh to decorate a whole range of dishes and can be used for sweet and savoury food. The whole flowers can be used or the individual petals (technically "ray florets") pulled off and scattered.
Even though the season for flowers is long, here in Sheffield as September passes there are signs that blooming is waning. Certainly the first frost will signal the end of harvesting so we need to preserve them to allow use over the other months of the year. Luckily the flowers dried very well, either as whole flowers or individual petals. We have been drying the petals and bottling into spice jars to add colour and tonic over the winter months. We will be adding these to our hampers at Christmas.