Monday, March 27, 2017

Life After The Day of the Dead: Marigold Drying Instructions

A couple of summers ago I discovered the deliciousness that is fresh Marigold Tea
October 2016: Brocade Mix (Tagetes Patula)
Never one to be bowled over by the beauty or even particularly interested in marigolds, I began planting them strictly as borders in my raised garden beds to act as a natural pesticide, and guardian to the other, more tender plants inhabiting the protected interior.

What anyone who's ever grown this little flower possibly most easily recognized for its association with Dia de los Muertos will tell you is how ridiculously easy they are to grow, how prolific the blooms are (they go positively wild with frequent clipping, and proper dead-heading), and how insanely long the growing season is (especially in the mild PNW) -- Last year they were still going strong all the way through mid-November. 

Rinsed & Drying on a rack
After witnessing this explosion of carmine, canary, and cadmium myself, I knew I had to figure out something to do with all of these flowers since just collecting, and drying for seed saving wasn't enough to stay ahead of the output, had me swimming in more seeds than I knew what to do with, and seemed like a bit of a waste at a certain point.  That's when I discovered marigold tea, and created my own ratio for the best cup!

Since then, it has been my goal to find the perfect drying instructions in order to keep this precious exlixir flowing through the off-season ... And I've done it (cue maniacal laughter)!  My fresh recipe found: here is simply 1-2 cups of rinsed and snipped petals combined with 4 cups of boiling water in a french press.

Dried & Ready to cool
The recipe for dried marigold petals is simply 1/4 -1/2 cup of petals per 4 cups of boiling water.

Drying Marigolds
  • Clip blooms & Rinse well
  • Shake off excess water
  • Arrange on roasting pan rack to dry  
  • Once mostly dry, place pan in oven on lowest setting (typically 150° F) with the door cracked open to ensure generous air flow, and proper circulation (we don't want to bake them, just dry them).
  • After any trace of water has disappeared, and the flowers have begun to shrink and become brittle (about 1 hour) remove pan from oven, empty it of all flower heads, and remove the rack.
  • Snip petals from the green calyx that secures them to the stem, and scatter them around the bottom of the pan.
  • Place roasting pan back into the oven (still on lowest setting) with the door cracked until all discernible dampness, and moisture is gone.  The timing here depends entirely on the size, moisture content, and oil found in the marigold petals.  Check every 15 minutes, rustling them around each time until a deep, rich color has developed, and the petals are "crunchy" to the touch.
At this point, don't be fooled - "warm & crunchy" does not necessarily mean "dry".  Before storing your new hoard in the airtight container of your choice (mine), you need to allow your petals to cool to room temperature, and set-up (for lack of a better term).  I keep mine in the roasting pan cooling on the counter for a day after oven drying, keeping them covered with a paper towel (cheesecloth, parchment, whatever) so no dust or foreign objects find a way into the stash, uncovering every so often to disturb their position and make sure nothing is clumping or sticking together.  Petals sealed in containers too soon before they've fully dried will develop little white spores on them.  If you see this, discard the entire batch, and start over with fresh flowers. 

Known Folk Uses for Marigolds:
-Often referred to as the "poor man's saffron" dried marigold petals can be used in place of the much more expensive spice in many dishes.
-Dye & Food coloring.
-Poultry feed.
-Mosquito and pest repellent.
-Fragrance in perfumes.
-Relieving digestive discomfort.
-Activating menstruation, soothing breast tenderness, and protection against miscarriage.
-Tagetes oil has been used to ease the discomfort of all manner of skin irritations including eczema, wounds, and ulcerations.

Further Reading:
A recent study tackling the claims of antioxidant, and anti-inflammatory properties of marigolds.
Irakli Chkhikvishvili, Tamar Sanikidze, Nunu Gogia, et al., “Constituents of French Marigold (Tagetes patula L.) Flowers Protect Jurkat T-Cells against Oxidative Stress,” Oxidative Medicine and Cellular Longevity, vol. 2016, Article ID 4216285, 10 pages, 2016. doi:10.1155/2016/4216285