As a gardener, I take that as my cue to get out to the garden and harvest the last of my herbs and flowers before the killing freeze finishes them off for the season. Today's chore was to gather the last of the marigold blooms.
I like to grow marigolds because first of all, I think they're pretty. But they also are great companion plants in the garden because they help deter pests. In addition, they have antiseptic properties and can be used medicinally if needed. The best part about marigolds, though, is that they are edible--at least the petals are. They don't have a very strong flavor, but I like to toss them in a salad or on top of a casserole to add a unique punch of color.
As much as I like eating my marigolds, there are some who enjoy them even more than I do...
It's for that very reason that marigolds can actually be found in the ingredient list on many commercial chicken feeds. In South America they grow massive fields of marigolds that are designated specifically for chicken feed! That sounds like my kind of country...
My chickens free-range throughout the warm months, and so they have an endless supply of bugs, grubs, and greens to forage from around the homestead. The yolks of their eggs are naturally a dark orange color because of their healthy food choices. But their winter meal options are a bit more limited, so I spice up their feed mix with these lovely little flowers.
But in order to have some to feed them, I first have to get them harvested.
It's a simple process, but there are a few necessary steps involved...
I like sound effects.
Call me crazy.
After about a week, I check the petals to make sure all the moisture has evaporated.
The final step is to fill up any spare mason jar I can find with these lovely flowers. I store them with all my other dried herbs and seeds, and I use them as needed throughout the winter.
And since marigold petals retain their hues even after being dried, they add a nice cozy pop of color to my herb shelf. When I glance that way on a cold blustery day, I feel a little warmer inside. Every little bit helps, right??!
At least the chickens seem to agree with me.