I love the sunny orange flowers of calendula; they brighten my day.
Calendula officinalis makes an attractive addition to any garden. An annual herb, growing to a height of 60cm. Grow calendula in a sunny spot with well-drained soil. Seeds or seedlings sown in autumn through to spring will flower in mid winter to early summer. The orange flowers are like reflections of the sun. They are useful in medicine, cooking and cosmetic applications. Calendula infused oil is a good way to preserve their orange glow and it is very easy to make.
But first some info on this wonderful herb and how to get it ready for this very versatile infused oil.
Harvesting Calendula Flowers
Once your plants start flowering you can harvest them every couple of days. Cut the stems of each flower down to above where another flower bud is starting. This helps to keep the plants tidy and encourages more flowers. Then trim the stem off under the flower head. You can then use the flowers fresh or dry them for later use.
Using Fresh Calendula Flowers
Using the flowers picked fresh from the garden is a delightful way to use these orange beauties.
In The Kitchen
You can sprinkle the orange petals into salads. They add a lovely contrast to the many green leaves or to blue and black berries in a berry salad. Sprinkle the petals into rice salads and stir-fries. Garnish cooked mushrooms, scrambled eggs, omelettes and soups with their colourful petals. Use the whole small flowers as an edible garnish for any meal. Don't forget the sweets, stir the petals through custard, yoghurt or ice cream to give them an orange glow. Add flower petals to biscuits, shortbread and cake mixtures.
For fresh flowers range from cleansing wounds to helping liver function. Infuse the flowers in water for a healing tea. Use the whole flower head, as the most medicinal part, is in the thick sticky centre. This fresh 'flower power' tea stimulates digestion. It assists the lymphatic system and helps liver and gall bladder function. Use the fresh tea as a wash for wounds to help cleanse and start the healing process. Strain the tea well to use as an eyebath for conjunctivitis or sore tired inflamed eyes. Place fresh whole flowers into a calico or bath bag. Hang the bag under the hot water tap when filling a bath for children or adults with itchy or irritated skin.
It can be hard to use all your flowers fresh if you have many plants in your garden. Sometimes you need to keep some for later use. Drying your calendula provides flowers for use in the future. You can then use your dried flowers in many of the same ways as above.
How To Dry Calendula Flowers
Place the flower heads face down onto a towel in a well-ventilated, warm but not sunny area. Jumper drying racks work well and allow the air to circulate around both sides. Having a fan directed onto the flowers helps them to dry quicker. It can take several days to dry calendula this way. Turn the flowers over every day. You can also make use of a warm oven after cooking. Once it has cooled down to below 40℃ place the calendula flowers on a tray and slide into the oven. This will help the drying process.
Drying in the dehydrator is the best way to dry the flower heads. It is quicker and you can control the temperature. Spread the flower heads on each tray in one layer. Set the temperature to between 35℃ - 38℃. It can take 14 - 20 hours to dry calendula flowers in the dehydrator.
Storing Dried Calendula Flowers
Before storing the calendula you need to make sure the flower heads are completely dry. They are quite thick in the centre. Keeping them stored loosely in a paper bag is a good idea for a few days if you are unsure. Once dry store in an airtight container in a cool dark place.
How Long Does Dried Calendula Last
Properly dried and stored calendula will keep up to 3 years. You will likely use it all long before that. Make sure you label your jar with the date that you picked and bottled your calendula. Check the freshness by smelling it before using. If it has a musty smell it is time to put it in the compost heap.
Using Dried Calendula Flowers
Dried calendula flowers are suitable to make tea or use in tea blends with other dried herbs. Dried calendula adds a lively colour as well as its healing properties. The dried flowers allow you to use them all year round in the kitchen in the same way as the fresh flowers. Dried calendula is good for making bath bags for later use. Mix the flowers with some oatmeal and bundle them into muslin tied with string. They make wonderful gifts.
Making infused oil from dried calendula is a popular way to use this healing herb.
When the calendula has infused into the oil and has released its medicinal properties, it is strained and bottled.
How To Use Calendula Infused Oil
Calendula infused oil can soothe and heal minor wounds, itchy, inflamed skin conditions such as eczema, psoriasis and nappy rash. It is also useful for stings, burns, bruises and cradle cap.
Use this oil as a nourishing night time face treatment or complete body oil. As a luxurious massage oil use as is or add some essential oils.
The sunny orange oil is also used in food. Mix with some lemon juice and honey for a delicious salad dressing. Use the infused oil in cakes such as banana or whole orange cake. Drizzle over steamed vegetables or splash a little on chicken or fish.
Make Your Own Calendula Infused Oil
Watch the video here, or check out the full recipe below.
Calendula Infused Oil
Calendula Flowers (Fresh or Dried)
Dehydrator, Towel and Fan (if using Fresh flowers)
800mL Organic Cold-pressed Sunflower Oil
1L Sterilised Glass Jar with tight-fitting lid
Paper Bag / Cloth
Strainer & Cheese Cloth
Sterilised Amber bottles (2-3)
If you are using fresh flowers, Dehydrate your flowers for 14 hours at 38*c in a dehydrator.
If you don’t have a dehydrator, spread the fresh flowers over a sheet or towel and turn them daily until they are dry. A fan can speed up this process.
Fill a 1 litre jar loosely with dried calendula flowers.
Pour the sunflower oil over the calendula - make sure the oil covers all of the flowers.
Seal the jar with a well-fitting lid and shake well.
Place the jar in a paper bag and put it in a warm position for around 8 weeks. Give the jar a shake each day.
After 8 weeks, strain through a cheesecloth squeezing as much oil as possible out of the herb.
Pour into dry, sterilised amber bottles. I prefer to use a few smaller amber jars, rather than one large one. This reduces exposure to air and light each time it is opened to be used.
Label your jar with the name of the herb, type of oil used and date.
There are also alternative methods to speed up the infusion process if you prefer.
- The first option is to use a Slow cooker - place a cloth in the bottom of your slow cooker bowl. Place your jar or jars of herb and oil into the bowl and fill with water to below the lid of the jar. Set the temperature to just below 40℃ and leave for at least 6 hours. I like to leave it in the slow cooker for around 3 days.
- The second option is to use a Dehydrator - if you have a dehydrator that fits your jars in it, you can use it to keep the jars of herb oil warm for a few days. Set the temp at approx 38°C. This is the method I prefer and I sometimes leave the jars of herb oil in the dehydrator for a couple of weeks before straining, resulting in a well infused effective herbal oil.