Salad Green, Dye, or Ornament – Give Marigold the Right Role
November 16, 2017. By Cassy Aoyagi: What’s not to love about marigold blooms? They bring a levity and a spark of joy with their sunny colors and open blooms. Of course, LA has our own distinctive marigold beauty.
Traditional marigolds have a history of worthy service. Their blooms can be used to create a rich saffron die, and the colorful petals in our Farmer’s Market salads? Those are often marigold blooms as well! When marigolds are used as edibles, it’s best to keep water to a minimum, as it can yield a swampy flavor.
If we stop our conscription of traditional marigold with what she is happy to provide, she can add so much to our lives! Instead, big box nurseries have forced marigold into service beyond her worthy work. Marigold dutifully lines the front walks of traditional gardens and in front of community signage. In this role, she generates income for nurseries and landscapers who know she will never last long. What’s worse, is she is often dosed with fertilizers and pesticides that keep her from delighting us with her spicy flavor. Her life is a tragedy!
In contrast, Desert Marigold (Baileya multiradiata) is a wild thing who fiercely guards her independence. She grows and travels naturally throughout the Southwest including LA. While her life is also short, she does tend to live a bit longer than her edible, cultivated cousins. To keep her freedom, she has avoided providing anything more than joy and vibrance. There is something to be admired in that.