'Radio' Calendula

'Radio' Calendula

Regular price $4.00 Sale

Calendula officinalis

Origin: Unknown (originally Mediterranean)

Improvement status: Cultivar

Seeds per packet: ~55

Germination tested 2/2024: 82%

Life cycle: Annual 

This fun and useful variety comes to us from our friend at Wild Garden Seeds who write this about it: "Clear bright orange petals are rolled lengthwise into quills for a 'cactus dahlia' effect. This variety was new back when the radio was a new home entertainment center. Introduced around 1930, this 'pot marigold' became a common form for a generation, then faded from production."

In recent years, 'Radio' has become popular both for ornamental use and as a good source of fresh or dried petals for making medicine. Calendula itself is an old-school plant experiencing a major resurgence in popularity. The leaves are edible (better after boiling), but it's the flowers that are the main attraction. The petals have long been used as an edible garnish, natural food dye and subtle flavoring (much like saffron, though with a different flavor). Back in the day, dairy farmers often dyed butter orange with calendula petals to make it look more appetizing. It also seems likely it was playing a preservative role, as the plant is now known to have some anti-viral, anti-fungal, and anti-bacterial properties.

Calendula is still widely used as a medicinal plant (especially for inflammation and to prevent infections) and in cosmetics (due to the presence of saponins, essential oils, and resins). The plant is very easy to grow in a wide range of conditions. It is typically treated as an annual in North America, but it is actually a short-lived perennial and can persist for many years in warmer climates. It is believed native to southern Europe, but may be a completely domesticated species that was developed in cultivation from wild relatives.