Growing, harvesting and using Calendula is very simple and straight forward. This beautiful flowering plant has been widely used throughout history for health, beauty and as seasoning and edible decoration in culinary applications. It has been used to aid digestion, to calm aching teeth and joints, to speed healing of bruises, burns and wounds, to soothe cramps and reduce fever, to make cosmetics, and it makes a wonderful natural dye. For all these reasons it is a plant you will always find in my garden.
An easy flower to start from seeds, Calendula can be planted in very early spring. The plant stems themselves are not very attractive, they can get woody and when the flowers have dried on the stock they become unsightly. To remedy this problem I grow them in the same beds as Marigolds whose foliage is much more green and lush, thus hiding some of Calendulas dullness. The Calendula flowers are beautiful though and will remain so with a little care throughout the season. Once the Calendula begins to bloom you may start harvesting the flowers. Alternatively you may leave the flowers on the stock to enjoy them but when the petals start to dry you will need to keep the plant “dead headed” (this term refers to removing the old flower heads). Once the flowers heads start to dry the seeds begin to form. If you leave them on the stock they will reseed generously but they don’t look particularly pretty. I always leave several heads to dry on each plant. From those I collect seeds for the following year.
Harvesting the Flowers
To harvest your Calendula flowers start by plucking the entire flower head from the stem. Collect them in a basket as you go. Make sure to pick the fresh blooms that have not started wilting. When you have finished collecting the flower heads start removing the petals carefully from each flower. Collect the petals on a clean piece of white paper.
If there are any bugs or dust on your petals you will want to clean them before drying. The best way to do this is to gently add a handful to a plastic kitchen strainer and give it a few gentle taps. All the small friends or dirt particles will fall through leaving your cleaned petals behind.
Drying the Petals
Lay several clean sheets of white paper on a flat surface protected from wind and sun. I choose to dry my petals inside on my craft table. Carefully separate the petals into a single layer on the papers. The less they touch the more color they will retain and the better they will dry.
The drying time of the petals will vary in different climates but a good estimate is between 6-8 days. When they are fully dry they will look like this.
Store your dried Calendula petals in an airtight container. I used a pretty Weck jar. Now your Calendula is ready for all the projects!