The New World variety of marigold was a sacred flower to the Aztecs of Mexico.
This highly adaptable plant was known to the Ancient Egyptians who also are said to have regarded it as magical or mystical and of special significance for its sun-like symbolism.
Romans and the ancient Greeks glorified the marigold using it in various ceremonies and celebrations. The plant we call marigold which has the Latin name calendula is also a potent Christian symbol, its name is from (Virgin) Mary's Gold and marigolds have featured in catholic ceremonies in particular since early times.
The marigold's medical and herbal uses over the last three thousand years or so is also a fascinating journey across space and time. Wikipedia tells us that "pharmacological studies have suggested that Calendula extracts have antiviral, antigenotoxic, and anti-inflammatory properties in vitro. In herbalism, Calendula in suspension or in tincture is used topically for treating acne, reducing inflammation, controlling bleeding, and soothing irritated tissue." https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Calendula
The plant has an incredible history on four continents and has a cross cultural significance that harmonises very easily with the aims of the LEAP project and the values of the Friends of St George's Park.
All amazing stuff, but these are not the main reasons there are marigolds in our raised beds - as a group we don't quite revere our marigolds I don't think, but we certainly respect and admire them. They therefore earn a place in the LEAP raised bed for their legendary culinary uses, the petals of flowers for example make a colourful, tasty and nutritious addition to salads. The flowers can also be used as a low cost alternative to saffron and actually they have been used to make orange and yellow dyes for centuries.
During the Middle Ages in England flowers were very widely used as food, this practice seems to have stopped abruptly in the Victorian era for whatever reason until it came back into vogue in the 1920s.
High up on any list of culinary flowers are the common marigold which are used for cakes, biscuits and even custard.
There are still plenty of marigold desert recipes to be found, here is one off the internet as an example:-
Perhaps more familiar are the cake recipes like this one for carrot and marigold cake which has to be one of the most orange things anyone could imagine that isn't actually an orange.
Here's one of the mouthwatering recipes we discovered at The Natural Pantry website http://thenaturalpantry.co.uk/recipes/flower-power/
The flowers are ready for harvesting now so please go along and try a marigold with your salad or if you prefer make them into cakes or puddings. Some of the other fruit and vegetables are almost ready for picking. In the adjacent bed to the marigolds are courgettes that are now flowering (you can eat their flowers too) and the young courgettes are just a day or two away from a size you can harvest for dinner. The strawberries are doing well on the 'strawberry wall' the red onions not far off being ready, plums are growing nicely, but not yet ripe enough and the raspberries are now turning red. The beetroot are also doing nicely as are the inhabitants of the Three Sisters Bed. Have a look for yourself, please only take what you need and enjoy the fruits of nature growing right on the edge of Kidderminster town centre.
Here are a few more images of LEAP work parties and edibles in the park taken over the past week.