The Magic of Calendula flowers

Just picked calendular

If you only grow one flower in your vege garden or allotment then make it Calendula Officinalis. It is garish and perhaps even a little bit tacky but it will reward you in so many ways. As well as being an excellent companion plant for your Veges (it will deter many pests that would otherwise attack your edibles) it is also a medicinal wonder drug. I want to persuade you to grow this cheerful little flower and show you how to extract it’s wholesome goodness and turn it into an indispensable medicine that you’ll reach for again and again.

So what kind of benefits can be derived from Calendula? Well, Quite A few actually. If made into a lotion or balm it can be applied to a number of skin ailments like mild burns, stings, inflammation, nappy rash, cuts and bruises, eczema, athlete’s foot and acne. It has the magic qualities of being antibacterial, anti-inflammatory, anti-viral and also anti-fungla. Quite a little trouper really.

It’s one of the easiest seeds to grow that I know of so a great one for children. Just sprinkle the seeds into trays of compost and cover lightly. They’ll start sending out little shoots within a week or two. Then transplant them to a sunny spot in your garden. They cope with most soil types and semi shade and will also be very happy in a little pot on a balcony or patio. Keep them well watered.  If you want to be really clever and keep a continuous supply throughout summer for harvesting then sow another batch a few weeks after your first batch and again a few weeks later. I did two sowings this year and my first lot are still merrily flowering while my later batch are about two weeks away so I should have enough.

Harvesting is so easy and you can’t harvest too often. They will send out more buds the more you harvest (just like sweet peas) so get picking. Pick once all the morning dew has dried out and snip just above a leaf node.

snip

Make sure you select the most perfect, pristine flowers.

Perfect Specimin

Here’s a good specimen….

past it's prime

…..this one is a little past it. To dry the petals I like to dry the whole flower head.

Close up Calendular

Lay them out on a piece of muslin and turn every day or so.

Muslin Close up Muslin

They are a very sticky flower and you want a dry crisp flower so drying takes a little while. You’ll know they’re ready when you can pull away the petals with ease. Any resistance means they’re Not Quite Ready.

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See how crispy they get? Then fill up a clean jar with the petals.

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Now we can make a Calendula infused oil. Making an infused oil is so easy but you do need to have  a little patience (as Gary Barlow was right to point out). Take a clean, sterilised jar and fill three quarters full with dried calendula petals. Then fill the jar to the top with olive or sunflower oil. Make sure the petals are completely covered with the oil to prevent them from going mouldy.

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Looks very pretty doesn’t it.

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Label the jar with the date and leave it in a sunny spot for 3-4 weeks to work it’s magic. Give it a little smile and a gentle shake when you pass by. I’m going to leave mine for 4 weeks to extract every last drop of goodness. You can find recipes that say you can heat the oil with the petals very gently for a few hours to create an infused oil. However, I prefer to wait. Speeding things up can be a bit spooky for my liking; a bit like microwaves really (double spooky). Just be patient and you will be rewarded with a beautiful ingredient. I’ll show you how to make a balm for general ouchies and one for putting on itchy bites (as we call them over here) or general insect bites.

Row of Calendular

Boulevard Day in Havelock North

Havelock North

Buying local feels like the right thing to do in this Crazy Consumer driven World. We can get strawberries in Winter, toys from China and Robinson’s Orange Squash in the English section of the supermarket yet at what cost to the Environment? Whenever I get a chance to support the Local Economy I do and last Saturday I was spoilt rotten with Boulevard Day in Havelock North. This is a day when shops put out trestle tables groaning with books, jewellery, clothing, toys and everything inbetween. You can nab a good few bargains and I’m sure Christmas was on everyone’s minds! The lovely,  bubbly Kristen from Visage was selling Smashbox makeup at a huge discount so I nabbed a couple of nail varnishes here. Christmas shopping is underway…..

Kristen

Phoenix cards were doing a roaring trade with their lovely cards, wrapping paper and advent calendars. I bought a couple of Door Hangers for the Figlets. I’m sure they’ll love these as you can tell people to Keep Out! The Phoenix Trader, Mandy, started selling through Phoenix since arriving in New Zealand a good few years ago. It was a great way to meet new people and she sells at all the local markets and fairs throughout the year. I used to buy Phoenix cards in the UK and loved their fresh designs and price point. Phoenix cards started out as a “Kitchen Table” operation by two Mums!

Phoenix Cards  aDvent

Then I got chatting to Tessa who was selling some wonderful Eco Food Pouches for sandwiches and cookies and anything else you think you might want to eat on the go. Ditch the cling film and wrap your sandwiches in one of these safe in the knowledge that you’re doing Something Good for the planet. Tessa is part of the Young Enterprise Scheme which is so commendable that  I had to snaffle up a couple of the cookie pouches for the Figlets.

Tess Tess 2

The lovely Helen was out in force for Te Mata Figs. Helen and Murray started Te Mata Figs after being spoilt for choice for fresh figs in Australia but unable to find them when they returned to New Zealand. They now grow 23 varieties of fresh figs and use them in some mouth watering products like fig salami and Spanish Fig cake. They have won awards for their Just Fig Jam which, amazingly for jam, only contains 25 per cent sugar. I can vouch for their Fig syrup drizzled over ice cream too – yum!

Te Mata Figs

The Handmade Market was bustling with talented locals selling their creative products.

Handmade Market  Handmade MArket View

I had to laugh because eldest Figlet told me to try and find a panda hat for her friend who is having a birthday next week. I raised my eyebrows thinking who will be selling panda hats at a market? Look what I found…..

Hats

……a panda hat along with a whole range of beautiful, soft animal hats. Sue makes these hats purely out of enjoyment and it shows in the attention to detail and the quirky little designs like the seaside themed hat complete with starfish and seaweed! Just gorgeous! Another serendipitous find was Lynda, also known as the cushion lady!

Lynda

Lynda’s cushions tick so many boxes for me. She recycles pure wool blankets and transforms them into cushions and blankets with native bird/owl designs. I love the way she remembers where she got each blanket from; makes for a personal and thoughtful gift and I bought two of them – couldn’t resist!

Live Music

Saturday was also a hive of activity at the Hawthorne Market where you can chill out with a coffee from Hawthorne’s and amble around the market which is stuffed to bursting with top quality, quirky and downright gorgeous products.

Hawthorne MArket

You can always find something that catches your eye and my eye zoomed in on this adorable paper dress bunting.

Dress Bunting  Skyla

Aren’t they gorgeous and I’ve never seen anything like it before. Skyla is the creative genius behind the bunting which she started making for a school project. She then thought about trying to sell at her friend’s stall to raise money to get to Canada with her friend. Another young entrepreneur; very inspiring!

Skyla Paper Dress

I then stumbled upon one of my favourite local sellers…..

Floss  Tosh

Now there is a story here as to why they are one of my favourites….. when I arrived all those years ago to New Zealand I lost my Shopping Compass. You know…I just didn’t know where to shop or which shops were “cool” so I had to start from scratch and would often try and find Substitute Shops. I first saw Flossy and Tosh at a Christmas Market and as soon as I saw their pyjamas my shopping compass whispered “The White Company!” to me. I took a closer look and yes, their pyjamas were as beautiful and top quality as The White Company pjs I used to buy the Figlets. Then things got even better….I started searching through the racks of dresses and tunics and my Shopping Compass whispered “Boden!” and it was right. Bold, modern prints mixed with florals in vibrant colours; lovely details like buttons and gatherings; I felt as if I had Come Home! The Creative Geniuses behind the brand are the delightful Lissie and Jeannie….

J adn L

……who both have a great eye for detail and quirky knack of searching out the best fabrics. I really have Flossy and Tosh to thank for helping me manage my Boden habit and save heaps on postage!

Hairbands  Hair Ties

There are so many other things for sale like jewellery, handmade cosmetics and lotions, children’s toys and adult clothing I may have to do another post but here is one more stall that I was drawn to…

Peonies

There’s only one thing I love more than Buying Local and that is Buying Seasonally! These peonies are the last of the season and they are beautiful. Remembering what Linda Hallinan said at The Edible Garden Show about the chemically drenched commercial flowers I snaffled up a couple of bunches and was told how they would open up and gradually fade form a deep pink, to paler pink to peachy. What a delight! It was this stall owner’s first market and she had a gorgeous array of goodies on display.

Seedlings Stone Pot Pourri       Herbs

So in the mad run up to Christmas try and visit as many Local Markets as you can and support those creative locals that add a bit of colour and cheer into our lives!

Hawthorne MArket view