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Jul 7, 2006 04:13 AM

ground marigold... substitutes and other hacks?

Bought a book on Georgian cooking (the country, not the state). Many recipes call for ground marigold, which will require hunting down. In the meantime, are there any good proxies I could use? Is there any reason I shouldn't just buy some live marigolds and use as a 'fresh' herb?

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  1. This is only a guess, but I think the marigold was a coloring agent and probably a substitute for the expensive and also hard to obtain saffron. You might try a bit of turmeric or of course saffron.

    1. I just happen to be looking for a Georgian recipe, for tkemali, a sour plum sauce. Which book did you get, "The Georgian Feast" or "Please to the Table"? Could you lay a tkemali recipe on me? TIA.

      About the marigold powder--you can also try searching for it under the botanical name calendula. When I did that, it came up in a search at as well as an herb store near my house. Good luck!

      2 Replies
      1. re: heidipie

        By chance I recalled reading a blog entry on just this topic. The link (including recipe, scroll down a little) is:


        1. re: cheryl_h

          Yeah, that's the place I first heard of the stuff. I ended up cooking down the plums with only a couple of dried hot peppers, then mixing the thickened puree with a little ground coriander. It's yummy!

      2. If you have access to Mexican groceries, you should find it easily enough. I don't know if there was an indigenous use before it was used as a "cheap" subtitute for saffron, but that's what it's used for these days. Indeed it's usually labelled "azafrán" but not with intent to deceive - it looks very different and is much cheaper than any sane person could expect true saffron to be.

        1. Calendula is often available at natural food stores, either in the bulk aisle or in the herbs or teas section. If you're in MA I have seen it at the Harvest in Central Square, as well as at the Natural Foods store in Quincy Center. You might also try any homeopathic pharmacy/teas n' stuff store.

          1. I think I have to correct myself - IIRC the Mexican pseudo-saffron is safflower petals, not marigold.

            As for using ordinary marigolds, the only two issues are how heavily they've been sprayed with insecticides (if at all) and whether the particular variety is flavorful. Heavily hybridized ornamental varieties may or may not have the flavor and/or aroma of a traditional type selected for culinary use. If you get young plants and don't use the flowers that may be open when you buy them, the pesticide residue concern would be minimal; in terms of flavor, I really don't know what to tell you - I have no idea what one looks for in a culinary marigold.