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Food & Drink

Calendula officinalis: Edible flowers aren’t just for salads

September 10, 2014

Calendula officinalis - ancient, medicinal & edibleToday I was showing the autumn group of community gardeners at Freshford one of my favourite flowers in the vegetable garden, Calendula officinalis. Arguably one of the best companion plants around, Calendula, more commonly known as Pot Marigold, has an uplifting range of colours on the yellow to orange scale, continuously flowers throughout the summer months and has the ability to attract slugs as well as white and blackfly. This unfortunate trait makes it a handy sacrificial plant, or an indicator that there’s a problem pest in the garden but to be honest, apart from one white fly incident in a polytunnel, that’s not something I’ve really noticed in the years I’ve grown it.

Calendula officinalis - ancient, medicinal & edibleCalendula will always find a way into gardens I work with for its ability to attract pollinators, its vibrancy, and knowing that if I look at it often enough, one day I’ll finally get around to making the soft, healing hand and body lotions that Calendula is often associated with.

Calendula Seed Head

Calendula Seed Head – ready to harvest

At this time of year you might notice the petals falling off the plants and the seeds beginning to show themselves. As we’ve had such a dry spell recently, the seeds are setting naturally on the plants without rotting, something that often occurs during wet autumn days. The seeds can be gently removed and placed in brown envelopes, ready to sow again either in the springtime or undercover now for early flowering next year.

For centuries however, Calendula officinalis has been used medicinally in cultures around the world. According to Jekka McVicar’s Complete Herb Book, the inspiration behind the cupcake recipe below, there are some wonderful and ancient stories surrounding this herb. Among other tales, wreaths of Calendula were used to crown the gods and goddesses, the flowers added as an ingredient in love potions in medieval times and the leaves used in the American Civil War by doctors rushing around the battlefields treating open wounds.

For now however, I’ve been wearing a domestic hat and made the buns using the following recipe:

Calendula officinalis - ancient, medicinal & edibleCalendula Cup Cake Recipe

Makes 16

100g softened butter
100g caster sugar
2 eggs
100g self-raising flour
2 tablespoons milk
2 tbls fresh Calendula petals

Preheat oven to 200ºC/gas mark 6

Put the butter, caster sugar, eggs and flower into a bowl or food processor and mix together until fully combined. Add the milk gradually (pulse if using a processor). Fold in 1½ tablespoons of the petals then spoon the mixture into paper bun cases. Sprinkle the remaining petals onto the top of each bun mixture and add a small sprinkling of sugar on top. Place the tray in the oven and bake for 15 – 20 minutes. Remove the tray from the oven and place the buns on a wire tray to cool.

Calendula officinalis - ancient, medicinal & edibleThis is a handy little cupcake recipe regardless whether you add the petals or not. The buns are light and fluffy and given the history of calendula, with each small bite I felt like I was connecting with our past, and of course, they must be good for us if they contain a medicinal herb 😉


Are you a Calendula fan? Have you noticed it’s abilities as a companion plant or used it medicinally or in the kitchen?

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Food & Drink

Green Tomato Buns with Lemon Curd Topping

November 11, 2012
Green Tomato Buns

Green Tomato Buns

I’m a reluctant cook. Having churned out meal after meal for my family for the past fourteen or so years, I can honestly tell you I get more pleasure from weeding a muddy vegetable plot in the rain than trying to think up and prepare yet another dinner. Mr G would be the adventurous cook in the kitchen here and I’m usually quite happy to leave him to it. (Particularly as he’s prone to making comments like “that tastes nice, where did you buy it…!?”)

That said I do enjoy preparing meals for friends and getting stuck into a bit of baking now and again (see yesterday’s post for some links and recipes to non vegetable/fruit containing bun recipes). It’s really just the day-to-day cooking that does nothing for me.

What does come with regular cooking however, is confidence. For several years I was an out and out recipe book girl, never veering away from the ingredients but as the years have past and the discovery of what works and doesn’t begins to sink in, I’ve become more adventurous.

Today was a case in point when I was looking for recipes for the basket of green tomatoes that’s been sitting here on the countertop for days. I came across two possibilities – one for bread and one for cake – both from US web sites. Every version I found was measured in cup sizes and to my mind much heavier on the butter and sugar than we would be used to here (two cups of sugar seems an awful lot, even for my sweet too). I therefore adapted a courgette cake recipe and added ingredients from the green tomato cake recipe found earlier. Voilà,  it worked. We now have 24 buns containing an ingredient I wouldn’t have thought to add to cake in a month of Sundays.

The result tastes a bit like carrot cake – moist with a hint of spice. You’d only really know there were green tomatoes in the buns if you came across a piece that hadn’t been chopped up small enough and (I think) had been told they was in there. Certainly both our girls enjoyed eating the buns and hadn’t a clue!

If you have a large quantity of green tomatoes left at the end of the growing season and have made as much chutney as you can manage, I’d recommend whizzing what’s left in a food processor, bagging the mixture into portion sizes ready to make lots more cakes throughout the winter months. Why waste and compost a perfectly good food ingredient. You could argue they’re healthy cakes too as green tomatoes contain almost as much vitamin C as red ones!

Green Tomato Bunds with Lemon Curd Topping

Ingredients for Green Tomato & Lemon Curd Buns

Makes 24 buns

250g diced and strained green tomatoes
2 large eggs
125ml rapeseed oil
150g caster sugar
225g self-raising flour
half teaspoon bicarbonate of soda
half teaspoon baking powder
1 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp nutmeg
50g sultanas

Preheat the oven to 180ºC.

Whiz the whole green tomatoes in a food processor until diced without being liquidised. Place in a sieve and rest over a bowl to drain the moisture, using the back of a spoon to squeeze out the excess. Meanwhile add the oil, eggs and sugar to a bowl and mix until creamy. Combine  the flour, bicarbonate of soda and baking powder with the creamy mixture and stir with a wooden spoon then add the drained green tomatoes, spices and sultanas until evenly mixed.

Spoon  into bun cases and bake for 20- 25 mins until cooked. Leave to cool on a wire rack while you make the topping.

Lemon curd topping

Makes 350ml:

75g butter, preferably unsalted
3 large free range eggs
75g caster sugar
125ml lemon juice (or approx 2 lemons juiced)
zest of 1 lemon

Melt the butter in a heavy-based saucepan, add all the other ingredients and whisk to a custard over a gentle heat.  Let cool before topping the buns with it.  Keep any extra in the fridge as it’s lovely on toast too.

I’d love to hear how you get on with this recipe or if you adapt it to your own taste. The verdict here was a big all round hit. Two teenage lads were the initial guinea pigs and loved the buns, followed by our girls who didn’t know there were tomatoes in them and were mightily surprised when they were told afterwards!


Food & Drink, Lifestyle

Bun making on a Sunday afternoon…

June 14, 2010

On a much lighter note, our two girls made buns on their own yesterday.  It was the first time our 9 year old has made them without help from Mammy …. I just sorted out the ingredients.  She read the recipe, weighed, sieved, doubled up the quantities and mixed.  Voila, here they are…..

Our youngest (aged 7) sorted out the bun cases, helped skewer the decorations and licked every spoon and surface she could!

They were thrilled with their efforts, and what a great way to spend a showery Sunday afternoon (and they were delicious too).