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The best, exotic marigolds

December 11, 2014

We picked our way through stems of marigolds with their puff-ball flowers of tangerine, ochre and vermillion. The air was alive with the wings of butterflies which fluttered leisurely from bloom to bloom. A lady wrapped in a dappled fuschia sari darted away from seiving grain from chaff and took refuge in a hut made of sticks. A young Mother and her daughter strolled, not so casually, through the flowers knowing full well how photogenic they were. Adil caught a little black bee by the wings to show to the group. Rashed pulled the seeds from a dried flower head and displayed the spiky treasure in the palm of his hand.

In rural Rajasthan we saw many marigolds; they are used in abundance in religious ceremonies, but here they were planted as a companion crop to deter pests.

Calendula Officianalis or ‘pot marigold’ attracts beneficial insects and has natural antimicrobial properties.

It’s not a practice used widely by the visiting U.A.E. organic farmers at present, but Rashed explained that when he uses the petals in his chicken feed they lay eggs with yolks as golden as the marigolds. This small trade of knowledge between an Emirati farmer who has decades of experience with an Indian farmer who is drawing on a legacy of centuries of toil, trial and error on the land, encapsulates what this whole trip was about.

The sun warmed our backs and we wandered back past cows, haystacks, down a lane which looked like it could have been plucked from the English countryside, to drink tea with the farmer and his family.

Marigolds in Rajasthan-mycustardpie

Marigolds in Rajasthan-mycustardpie

Marigolds in Rajasthan-mycustardpie

I traveled from the U.A.E. to Rajasthan, India in November 2014 with four organic farmers on a knowledge-exchange trip with Indian organic farmers, organised by Baker and Spice and Down to Earth.Β  This is the first in a series of short stories about a weekend full of fascinating experiences.

  1. December 11, 2014 9:04 am

    As an Indian, I must say, marigold is one of the most under rated flowers in India. πŸ™‚ Looking forward to read rest of the series.

    • December 11, 2014 5:48 pm

      I’ve grown to love them since this trip.

  2. December 11, 2014 9:25 am

    How I miss India even more after reading this post! Loved your Rajasthan photos on Instagram and now looking forward to read an experience you have to share from your visit.

    • December 11, 2014 5:48 pm

      Rajasthan was such a beautiful province in so many contrasting ways.

  3. therealgeordiearmani permalink
    December 11, 2014 9:47 am

    I have been waiting for this post as I listened to the shows that Suzanne aired whilst you were there. Fabulous colours those marigolds! great post Sally thanks for sharing πŸ™‚

    • December 11, 2014 5:49 pm

      Thanks GA – you’ve reminded me to share the link to the shows too.

  4. December 11, 2014 10:47 am

    Beautiful pictures! Those marigolds are so pretty. I love those flowers and always have them on my balcony during the summertime…



    • December 11, 2014 5:50 pm

      Many of the roads in Dubai are edged with orange at this time of year as they are planted en masse by the Municipality Rosa.

  5. December 11, 2014 11:42 am

    A lovely post. Thank you Sally.

  6. December 11, 2014 11:49 am

    Beautiful images! I always learn something (and usually jealous about something!) when I visit my custard pie. We tried feeding marigolds petals to our hens but they weren’t interested!

    • December 11, 2014 5:51 pm

      He he – I must ask Rashed how he does it.

  7. December 11, 2014 11:49 am

    Beautiful post Sally – so serene. Specially that picture of mother and son – copybook serenity! It was only yesterday that I was thinking whether you had plans to write on your trip. Thought may be you will post them after Christmas. I am sure this was an amazing experience – can’t wait for your other posts!

    • December 11, 2014 5:52 pm

      I think that the next ones will probably edge into January – so much Christmas cooking to do now. That’s a little girl actually. Thanks for your very kind words.

  8. December 11, 2014 12:26 pm

    How gorgeous, both the experience and your photographs.

    • December 11, 2014 5:56 pm

      Thanks – the light was just lovely.

  9. December 11, 2014 12:59 pm

    absolutely stunning, can’t wait to see the rest of the stories from your weekend!

    • December 11, 2014 5:56 pm

      India is too vivid and interesting to tell in one go isn’t it.

  10. December 11, 2014 2:26 pm

    Beautifully photographed and told Sally. A pleasure to read, especially on this cold December morning in London.

    • December 11, 2014 5:54 pm

      Sending some golden sunshine – it’s snowing where my daughter is.

  11. December 11, 2014 2:47 pm

    That’s so beautiful. My mum used to plant marigolds outside our house in the 1980s!

    I watched “Best Exotic Marigold Hotel” recently and it’s well worth a watch.

    • December 11, 2014 5:53 pm

      I liked the film too – although it’s very different from the book which I read after Deborah Moggach came to the Lit Fest here.

  12. December 11, 2014 5:54 pm

    i love Rajasthan and love marigolds..lost the count of the number of times I have been to Rajasthan and the can’t remember when I fell in love with marigold. No celebration is complete without them. Beautiful post Sally.

  13. December 11, 2014 7:18 pm

    I’ve planted marigolds as a companion crop with tomatoes to deter pests in my kitchen garden; it works very well. Lovely photographs!

  14. December 11, 2014 7:49 pm

    Lovely snaps and the post. These flowers are often used for pujas and floral Rangoli decoration on the floor during festive times, a natural flower carpet! Fields full of marigold blossom are sheer joy to view.
    Looking forward to read more posts of your travel trips, Sally.

  15. glamorous glutton permalink
    December 11, 2014 8:16 pm

    Sally this is a wonderful post, the photos are so beautiful and I love the sentiment behind it. How fabulous to learn so much in such amazing surroundings. You’ve made me want to rush out and plant Marigolds, even though it’s freezing and the middle of December! GG

  16. December 12, 2014 7:51 am

    So beautiful! I always put some marigolds in our garden. No matter if they clash with other colors, I just love them.

  17. Carlo dei Tedeschi permalink
    December 12, 2014 9:59 am

    Love x

    Sent from my iPhone


  18. December 12, 2014 12:04 pm

    I’ve also been waiting patiently for this post & look forward to the follow up in January. Really fascinating, inspiring. Like others who commented, I also resolved to plant marigolds in spring.
    Of course Auntie Zyta always planted them amongst the vegetables. She once made an ointment for my eczema out of marigold petals and veal fat! x

  19. December 13, 2014 1:21 am

    Marigolds are one of my favorite flowers. I save the seeds each year, going for the nicest deep red colour. You have not shown any pot marigolds in your photos. I am wondering if the hens are fed pot marigolds or the ones you show. (they are not the same)

  20. December 14, 2014 10:14 am

    Beautiful post pictures and writing- I did think you were somewhere outside the UAE by the way- fascinating info about the egg yolk and marigolds!

  21. December 14, 2014 10:17 am

    Sorry Sally- I got it All mixed up! This is outside the UAE in Rajasthan ! Beautiful. Wish it was here now!

  22. December 15, 2014 1:43 pm

    Such a charming and gentle post, I enjoyed reading it Sally. The images of marigolds evoke memories of prayers and temple visits with my mum, there would be mounds of them. My parents home is down the road from a temple and the temple gardens grow them in masses and they creep through the railings. Your pictures are just beautiful too xxx

  23. December 15, 2014 5:30 pm

    What a lovely post…not to mention the post title, made me smile! I love the idea of feeding hens marigold petals so they lay eggs with golden yolks…it sounds almost romantic, I believe this is organic farming at its best.

  24. December 17, 2014 2:56 pm

    What a lovely piece Sally. And of course, the flowers look spectacular.


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