|Marigold (Calendula officinalis)|
The common name comes from 'Mary's Gold', as it was so called in honour of the Virgin Mary. Why this should be is open to conjecture, but the scientific name, Calendula officinalis is a bit easier to explain: 'Calendula' comes from the Latin 'Calendae', meaning the first day of the month and possibly refers to the fact that, in its native Southern European and North African habitat, it can often be seen flowering throughout the year; 'officinalis' applies to plants with perceived medicinal properties. Dipping a leaf in boiling water for a second, then bruising and applying it to a wound controls bleeding and speeds the healing process. When you hear a fact like this, there's a tendency to think this would be really useful if you were to injure yourself in the countryside. However, if you think about it, the presence of boiling water on the spot is about as unlikely as a comfrey plant growing next to the nettle that stung you. (I think it probable that no one is absolutely sure whether comfrey eases nettle stings, because by the time you find some the pain has naturally dissipated or you've died of old age).
Herbalists also use marigold internally for a bewildering list of ailments ranging from colitis to athlete's foot and as if its medicinal properties aren't enough, the plant has numerous uses in the kitchen: a complete flower dropped into a stew will add a pleasing flavour, while the petals have a similar effect in salads and soups. It also provides a pretty good substitute for saffron because, when soaked in milk or water, it can be used as a colouring for rice, cakes and puddings.
|Rue (Ruta graveolens)|