Gardens work in mysterious ways. The Ianto Evan’s polyculture garden I started in spring produced zillions of radishes, meager chard and carrots in summer, but late summer into fall it has become a gold rush of calendula flowers.
I’ve read about Calendula officinalis for years, but I’ve never grown these rays of yellow, gold, and orange. What a pity.
Calendula seems to be the Superwoman of herbs. Its anti-inflammatory and healing properties are touted for urinary tract infections, athlete’s foot, and pink eye.
The tea can be used as a gargle for sore throat or a mouth rinse for canker sores or ulcers. A drink of calendula petals will ease tummy aches, calm painful menstruation, and reduce fever by inducing sweat (but please, no more than 2 cups per day). A dab of calendula brew on a cotton ball is reported to be good for anything from diaper rash and insect bites to burns, wounds, and acne. Why, if you have an itchy scalp you can even rinse your hair with it.
With all herbs, there are a few caveats: first, go slow and don’t go overboard. And, the big one: If there is any chance that you are pregnant, steer clear of using calendula internally, as it stimulates menstruation. But, from what I’ve read, a pregnant woman can use it externally as a salve or massage oil. It is said to relieve lymph congestion, reduce stretch marks, and ease breast soreness.
So, getting back to my calendula patch. I decided to dry a basket of the flowers. I read that “overnight is usually long enough to dry the delicate blossoms”. Well, I turned my dehydrator on the lowest setting on a Wednesday evening and figured by morning, I’d have dried blossoms. Wrong. I went to work, got home, and they still weren’t dry. Thursday night. All day Friday. Friday night. Finally, on Saturday afternoon, they were ready to be placed in glass jars for keeping. 72 hours, not 12, too, too long.
One teaspoon of the dried herb in tea ball with a cup or so of steaming water, steeped for about 15 minutes, is all it takes to make the magic potion, when I need it.
In the meantime, soup season is approaching. I’ve heard it said that in Holland no broth is made without calendula petals. That, I will enjoy trying. There is something poetic about sprinkling these tissue-paper thin petals in a soup pot, conjuring up its peasant name—pot marigold—the poor woman’s substitute for saffron. Laurie Lynch
Spirit of the Mountains: With the change of the season, I’ve been listening to a CD created by my girlfriend Mary’s husband, Harrison Edwards, many years ago. It remains a favorite. “A collection of vivid instrumental music inviting you to soar with the thousands of hawks and migrating raptors as they pass over Hawk Mountain as they pass each year during their fall migration.” Soaring I am, even in Centre County.
Spirit of Tuscany: My chef-phew Wille has been working in the kitchen of an Italian resort since early September, soaking up the sunshine, landscapes, and the romance of Tuscany.
“I fell in love…” he said in a phone call that sounded as close as if he were calling from Tyrone. There was a hesitation, a pause, “…with pecorino.”
“Oh, the cheese (specifically, ewe’s milk cheese),” I answered the little trickster. He reports that in Tuscany, pecorino can be eaten alone or accompany “salumi,” the Italian equivalent of the French term “charcuterie,” or, as we say in the USA, “preserved meat.” Pecorino is also beloved for dessert when it is eaten with a slice of pear, just like Wille’s Nonno used to do at our dining room table.
Wille’s favorite salumi are two “oldies”: prosciutto crudo (cured ham) and salame (spiced, salted pork and pork fat forced into casing and aged for several months) and a new discovery: finocchiona, minced pork and fennel forced into casing and cured. And I’m sure he washes them all down with plenty of Tuscan wine.
At the resort, there is a different menu every day for the vacationers—Tuesday night is always outdoor pizza oven night—and sometimes Wille even cooks staff meals for 35, which includes the kitchen, farm, maintenance and laundry crews. Quite an experience.
An Old Italian Saying: “Non far sapere al contadino quant’e buona la pera col pecorino.” (Don’t let the farmer discover how tasty pears with cheese are.)