Sunday, May 26, 2013

Ode to Calendula - Excerpt

In the May/June '13 issue of The Essential Herbal Magazine, Marci Tsohonis graced our pages with an instructive article on making castile soap with calendula, but along the way she described so well several ways of preserving and using the flowers that she so obviously loves.  I have been a benefactor of her painstaking care of these lovelies, and have never in my life seen such beautiful, vibrant dried calendula.  It was obviously a labor of love.  Below is a section of that article, and as the flower buds are just starting to turn to the sun and open in many parts of the country right now, we're sharing it here for you...

When I harvest Calendula flower heads, I leave a half inch stem attached, making it easier to press the whole flower face down on a screen for drying.  As I flatten it, I gently break off the remaining stem.  If the weather is warm, the flowers should be almost weightless, dry and crispy in less than a week.  Each petal will shrink to half its width.  You’ll be able to tell when they are ready.  Once they are dry, hold the flower head and gently pull outward at the edges of the petals to remove them from the head. 

Calendula flowers dry beautifully on a rack or screen in a warm, covered, shady area when given plenty of air circulation.  I press them onto a screen in our garden shed, and leave the windows ajar to promote air flow.  A garage would work, or even a covered patio that is out of the wind.  I sometimes notice bulk Calendula flowers for sale in natural food stores, stuffed in jars every which way, in a brownish tangle.  They lack memory of the life force when handled that way.  When carefully dried, they are a joyous addition to a summer Potpourri.

NOTE!  If you see something resembling worm larvae in either the finished oil or soap,
it is most likely just a Calendula seed!  Simply lift it out with tweezers or a spoon. It is easy to inadvertently pull a seed off the head when you are removing the petals. I found several the first time I made the infused oil.  The seeds are a somewhat curly, crescent moon shape.

This is my favorite method.  Fill any size jar half full of dried Calendula petals.  Pour Olive oil over the petals, filling jar to within 2 inches of the top of the jar.  A little headspace is needed as the petals will expand once they become saturated with the oil.  (an overflow is quite messy) Stir the oil and petals a few times.  Cover the top of the jar with a double layer square of cheesecloth and apply the screw band (or a rubber band) over that.  Place in a sunny, south facing windowsill for at least 6 weeks.  Stir contents daily.

Place dried Calendula petals and olive oil in a crock pot.  I suggest you use a Rheostat/Light dimmer to regulate the heat setting on your crock pot.  Alternately, take the temperature of the oil frequently, turning the crock pot on or off, to ensure the oil temperature is maintained between 100 and 110 degrees for several hours.  The crock pot method works well, though the oil will not be quite as resinous as it would be using the solar method with a longer infusion period.

I don’t use fresh infused Calendula oil in soap recipes, generally, though there is no reason you couldn’t. It is more work to make the oil, and the yield is not as good.  But this is a special oil.   Alcohol frees and dissolves the resin in Calendula, adding medicinal properties to the oil that you would not be able to access with water or plain oil alone. I’m including the recipe, while I’m up, because it makes a highly resinous, healing oil, courtesy of the late Michael Moore.  He stated that most of the Alcohol evaporates during the cook.   Some expert herbalists consider the scent from the trace of Alcohol remaining in the oil to be unpleasant.  Others swear by this method.  You’ll need to make that call for yourself.

Want to try it yourself?  Fill a food processor with cut Calendula heads.  Little bits of stem are fine to add as well.  Pour 1/8 to 1/4 cup of 100 proof Grain Alcohol over them.  Process briefly, long enough to chop the Calendula and distribute the Alcohol.  Allow to sit several hours.  Transfer ingredients to a blender.  Cover with Olive Oil.  Blend on “Chop” until Calendula is finely diced.  Scrape contents into a crock pot.  Maintain temperature of oil & herb mixture at a range of 100-110 for 8-12 hours. Strain thoroughly through Cheesecloth or old t-shirt, squeezing every last drop of this incredible oil.
Don't want to make your own?  We have it HERE

1 comment:

Lorie said...

Love your blog and this particular entry hit home for me. Just planting my seasonal plantings of calendula this week as I notice not many reseeded from last year. It is always one of the staples in my garden. Thanks for sharing a piece of the article.
Blessings! Lorie


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