Kimberley Rothwell's calendula cordial
Calendula is a plant which, I believe, no garden should be without. For its ornamental properties alone, it's essential.
As an edging vegetable and for herb gardens it's a colourful pick-me-up, and it self-seeds freely, so you don't have to replace plants year after year. Nature does it for you. Scatter some seeds and you have calendula for life.
In my sister Angela's garden calendula, also known as pot marigold, has almost become a weed, taking over any spare space where vegetables and herbs have been harvested.
That's when it's not doing battle with forget-me-nots or pyrethrum for supremacy.
I might pick out the seedlings of these other two while having a cup of tea in the sun, but I will never weed out the calendula.
I value this plant not only for its beauty and the fact that it doesn't need the nurturing some other plants require, but for its many uses outside the garden.
Calendula has antiviral and anti-inflammatory properties and is used in herbalism to heal everything from dermatitis to nappy rash.
I first sowed some seeds intending to make a nappy-rash cream for my son, inspired by a recipe in Robyn Paterson's Tips from your Nana, but my son outgrew nappies faster than I could grow my one or two plants and before I could get my act into gear to make it.
Now, I have patches of plants dotted all over my garden and I've seen it on roadsides around where I live. I trim the flowers that are drying and save them in a paper bag. I cut fresh flowers and put them all around the house, saving the petals when they too start to turn.
I make calendula oil for the bath by steeping dried petals for a few weeks in olive oil, and fresh calendula flowers sometimes find their way into salads. I love the smell of calendula petals, so fresh and orangey.
In lieu of elderflower cordial - my sister and I missed the brief period when her tree was full of flowers and the wind got to them - we made calendula cordial to have with our bubbles at New Year. You need a lot of petals, but that's all right, because calendula like having their flowers picked. It makes the plant flower all the more. The cordial gives drinks a delicate citrus flavour.
You can make this recipe with any edible flowers, such as elderflowers, roses, nasturtiums, borage, lavender, jasmine or violets.
1 cup fresh calendula petals
1 1/2 cups boiling water
3/4 cups sugar (we used brown sugar, which made the cordial rather dark, like brown honey)
Juice of one lemon
Put fresh petals in a heatproof glass bowl such as a Pyrex dish. Pour over the boiling water, cover with plastic wrap and leave to steep for 24 hours. Line a colander or sieve with muslin or cheesecloth and strain the liquid into a saucepan. Add the lemon juice and sugar and simmer on a low heat for about half an hour until the sugar has dissolved and the mix has thickened into a syrup. Use a tablespoonful to brighten water, tonic or sparkling wine.
This can be stored in an airtight container for about a week. Keep in the fridge.
The Dominion Post