Tips to learn how to grow Calendula flowers in a pot or in your garden and the best way to dry them. Fill a jar with your homemade dried Calendula flowers and use them for infused tea or flavored olive oil full of health benefits.
Calendula, or Marigold, is a fantastic plant with bright orange and yellow flowers used for medicinal purposes for centuries. Even nowadays it's very common to find creams and ointments made with Calendula extract in every pharmacy.
But the uses of Marigold are not only medicinal and cosmetic, they're also very much used in the kitchen too. From teas to salads, cheeses, and soups. This colorful flower can give a light saffron taste to many dishes.
How to grow the Calendula plant
The Calendula plant (Calendula officinalis) is an annual plant. It's very adaptable and doesn't need excessive care.
- Sowing: Sow indoors at the end of Winter (January-February) or outdoors at the beginning of Spring (March-April)
- Harvesting: April to October (it may slow down in the hottest months)
- Maturity: 45-60 days from seed to flower
- Height: 1-2 feet (30-60 cm)
- Feeding: Not necessary
- Watering: Often in the germination period, once the plant is established water only when the soil is dry
- Light: Partly shade or full sun
- Pesticide: Small pests may lay on the flowers but they’re usually not harmful to the plant. Use only Bio non-toxic pesticides if really necessary.
You can either plant the seeds indoors in winter and then transfer them to the garden when they are about 5 cm (2 inches) tall, or you can seed them directly in the ground when the temperature is warmer.
How to harvest the flowers
The flowers are ready to be harvested when they're fully open. The flowers usually last 1-2 weeks on the plant so you have time to pick them before they go bad. If they start to look sad and wilted, it's too late.
Although each plant, even if small, will make many flowers in continuity from Spring to Fall so you'll surely be able to have a good quantity of flowers.
How to dry the flowers
First, you need to carefully wash the flowers to make sure that they are clean and pest-free. Look under the petals as often they hide down there. Fill a bowl with water and soak the flowers in it. You can twist the stem between your fingers to make the flower rotate fast in the water. This way the petals will open and the insects will drown. Or use a small brush to remove the insects.
Set all the flowers on a towel or paper towel well spread out so they will dry faster and uniformly.
Put in the ventilated oven at the lowest temperature (between 50°C/120°F and 80°C/170°F max) for about 1 hour. This way the water will completely dry out to avoid rotting and mold.
Then place the flowers in a dry and sunny place (the hotter the better) for about 1-2 weeks or until the flowers are completely dry, especially in the center.
You can also dry Chamomile flowers to make delicious tea. Learn everything about Chamomile here.
Storage and uses
Once the flowers are fully dry, you can store them in an airtight container or a jar in a dark and cool place. You can then use the dried Calendula flowers in many ways, but the most common are tea and oil.
- Calendula Tea: The best way to get all the benefits of Calendula, is to infuse it in a tea. Add 2-3 flowers in a cup and then steep with boiling water for 10-15 minutes. This tea is great to relieve sore throat or any wounds in your mouth. Cooled Calendula tea can also be used as a compress for eye infections.
- Calendula Oil: Calendula Oil can be used in a medicinal way or also in the kitchen. It's anti-septic and anti-inflammatory so it can be used to relieve skin conditions and to reduce scarring and wrinkles. But you can also add it to a salad or to any dish you prepare and it will help with your digestion and immune system.
To learn more about the many uses of Calendula, check out this website.
How to make Calendula Oil
Once the flowers are fully dried, add them in a clean jar, even better if it's sterilized. Cover the flowers with a good amount of oil. You can use olive oil but also avocado oil or any other oil you like and use.
I used 7 Calendula flowers for about ½ cup of oil. But you can adjust to your preference.
Close well the lid and set the jar in a sunny spot for about 1 month. The sun will heat the oil which will steep the flowers absorbing all the flavor and nutrients. Once in a while lightly shake the jar to make sure all the floating flowers are covered in oil.
Once the oil is ready, you can transfer it to oil bottles. You can keep 1-2 flowers inside for decoration or remove them completely. At this point, they won't add anything more to the oil.
You can use this oil on your skin to treat burns or scars, or you can use it in salads. The flavor is slightly sweet and delicate.
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