Marigold flowers are scattered everywhere this month, along the roadways, in the corn fields, sold in the markets, and decorating family tombs in every cemetery in preparation for All Saints’ Day. With our invierno rainy season easing, marigolds are in full bloom!
Nurseries up North call them “Mexican marigolds,” which seems unfair as they’re native to Guatemala and Chiapas, the southern Mexican state that was once part of Guatemala. Some Mexican farmers grow many acres of marigolds, however, drying and grinding the little golden-yellow petals to ship north to large egg producers. Added to chicken feed, marigold flour makes the hen’s egg yolk the rich color that many shoppers prefer.
Here, pericón, marigold, is wild but valued for several uses. It’s a pleasant, anise-flavored tea and a rich yellow dye for textiles. Flowers are dried and burned as incense and insect repellant. Fresh or dried leaves are used as a tarragon substitute for flavoring soups, sauces, and stews. And every medicinal-plant vendor recommends marigold leaves and blossoms as cures for several ailments.
Ancients claimed the marigold was linked to the rain’s god Tlaloc, and said it had psychotropic effect. Last year pharmaceutical researchers in Indianapolis tested marigold stems, flowers, and leaves and found chemicals in the plant inhibited the growth of staph, e-Coli, and candida bacteria.
Medicinal or not, marigolds taste good, smell of licorice, and are lovely to see dotting the grasses and hillsides this season. Get out your oil paints, slather on blue skies with white clouds, green grasses with brown cornstalks, then scatter lots of yellow points of marigold in our October landscape.