( Originally Published 1933 )
This handsome and popular annual of the flower garden is native to Asia, southern Europe, and the Levant. The Latin name, calendula, comes from calends or calendae, and means, "through the months," and truly the round yellow or orange blossoms keep on opening all summer and have the great advantage of coming forth in greatest abundance toward the fall long after the first frosts have blighted the garden. The plant feels sticky and furry to the touch and has a warm, sweet, spicy scent.
Root. It has a small root.
Stem. The stems are somewhat prostrate, ridged, furry, and of a darkish green. They branch from the base and have many leaves.
Leaf. The leaves are soft and longish, about one and one-quarter to two and one-half inches across and four to six inches long and clustered. They are rounded, with a prominent midrib, and the base partially envelops the stem. On some of them little thorn-like sharp jags are sparsely placed along the margins, and one of these is at the tip of the leaf.
Flower. The flower buds are round, the flowers flat and velvety, generally with many rows of ray florets surrounding the center disk ones, and in color some are pale yellow and others deep orange, while a few are in several tones. The flowers measure about two inches across. The calyx is composed of numerous furry, narrow sepals of dark green tipped reddish.
Seed. The seeds are curved and ridged, something like tiny dried worms, and are about one-quarter of an inch long. Vilmorin says their germinating power lasts three years.
HISTORY AND LEGEND
Katherine Neals, who has written at length of the history of this flower, says that in India the Buddhists hold it sacred to the goddess Mahadevi, whose trident emblem is adorned with the flowers, while her devotees crowned themselves with marigolds at her festivals. The Greeks liked it and made decorations of it. To dream of a marigold foretold marriage, riches, and success. There is a superstition in Brittany that if a maiden touches a marigold with her bare foot she will be able ever afterwards to understand the language of birds. It was the appropriate flower for Lady Day, the 25th of March. During the reign of Henry VII, baskets filled with marigold flowers were sent to ladies by their admirers. In Mexico, however, this sunny flower is strangely the emblem of death, and is used to decorate churches, but not on festive occasions. According to an old German account, it was called Todtenblume, and no one would accept it as a present.
Marigold petals give their golden color to butter, and are also an adulterant for saffron.
Medicine. During the Middle Ages a decoction of the petals was taken for different ailments. The petals in a tincture were used by the surgeons during the Civil War. It is in the British Pharmacopoeia.
Food. The petals have no taste before they are cooked and after cooking taste a little bitter, but when mixed with almond paste and other ingredients they have an unusual and savory flavor. The deepest orange flowers are said to have the strongest taste.
The marigold comes readily from seed. They can either be planted in flats indoors and transplanted later, or seeded where they are to stay and flower. Nowadays the marigolds are often forced for winter blooming and for this should be planted in the early fall.
Harvest. Cut the flower heads in full bloom, and then remove the ray florets by hand and dry these indoors in the shade so that none of their warm color will be lost.