What’s the first thing you do when you are bitten by mosquitoes? I don’t know about you, but I immediately cover the affected skin area with calendula cream. Indeed, calendula (also called pot marigold) has been my family’s go-to option for minor scrapes and bruises for as long as I can remember. Nowadays, I use calendula cream to moisturize and treat my daughter’s skin. Such was the case yesterday, for instance, when she was bitten by mosquitoes during our usual walk in the park.
In 2008, calendula was named Herb of the Year by the International Herb Association, an official recognition of the exceptional healing properties and culinary value of this plant. You read that right: culinary value. The petals of calendula flowers can be eaten raw (in salads) or cooked (in soups and stews). To satisfy my family’s appetite for fresh summery dishes, I recently used calendula petals as an ingredient in the salad pictured above. The tangy, peppery taste of the petals made this a summer salad like no other – a salad packed with layer upon layer of flavor, a great lunch option for vegetarians and non-vegetarians alike. Here’s a salad to remember 🙂
Inspiration can come from the most unexpected places, and this dish – inspired by a Boiron blogger event I attended recently – is a case in point. As someone who has lived a good part of her life in Europe, I was very familiar with French company Boiron, a leader in homeopathy and arguably a household name on the “old continent.” According to homeopathy, minor ailments such as allergies, coughs, colds, flu, muscle pain and cuts and scrapes can be treated naturally, using substances found in plants, animals and minerals.
Boiron was founded by brothers and pharmacists Jean and Henrí Boiron back in 1932. At the blogger event, Michèle Boiron (daughter of Jean Boiron and a pharmacist herself) told the audience more about her experiences in the industry and about the homeopathic philosophy more broadly.
Calendula is used by Boiron in a range of creams and gels that treat skin irritations and minor burns. A lover of Mediterranean soil and climate, this delicate plant is rather difficult to get hold of in its fresh state in Chicagoland, so I had to do quite a bit of investigative work to locate it. All the hard work paid off eventually, when I found calendula at the Urhausen Greenhouses in Lincolnwood. Yay! 🙂
And there it was! Exhibiting a delicate balance of bright yellow flowers and velvety elongated leaves, the object of my search was right in front of me:
So beautiful, so tender, so valuable!
Unsurprisingly perhaps, calendula was not the only partially edible plant we found at the Urhausen Greenhouses. In the pic below you can see an entire section dedicated to echinacea, Mother Nature’s well-known remedy for the common cold. I will definitely go back to check out this section in greater detail.
Echinacea tea, anyone?
To preserve the natural beauty and distinctive flavor of the calendula, I decided to use the petals of my plants in a salad. The flowers have a rather bitter taste, which I thought would go well with a mild lettuce such as greenleaf.
For the dressing, I paired the fresh thyme and oregano from my mini herb garden with vegetable oil, white wine vinegar and classic mustard. You can of course use extra virgin olive oil for a bolder golden color and a complete Mediterranean flavor profile.
I added the delicate calendula petals to a generous sample of summer flavors: in addition to greenleaf lettuce, I used red and yellow cherry tomatoes, green grapes, blueberries, freshly grated radish and jicama for texture, and watercress (for other uses of watercress, check out my recent post here). Hard-boiled quail eggs added protein wholesomeness, while dried cranberries provided a touch of sweetness.
No salad is complete without cheese (or so I think, lol), so I decided to add perlini mozzarella as a tasty and stylish decorative element. I found these sought-after tiny gems of mozzarella goodness over at Caputo Cheese Market. You can use ciliegini if perlini are not available where you shop.
The final product: summer in a bowl!
This salad, which can be eaten on its own or as part of a main meal, keeps well in the refrigerator for 1-2 days max. For best results, let it chill for at least 30 minutes before serving. As you sink your teeth into the refreshing tomatoes and your mouth enjoys the suave blueberry kisses, the sharpness of the calendula shines through, its deliciousness revealed for good. Make this salad now – and you will love it forever 🙂