A staple of warm weather annual flowerbeds, the marigold has a more complex story than its simple good looks imply. The sunset-colored flowers are edible in salads and are used as a commercial source of orange food coloring, while the 'green' fragrance of the foliage has long been extracted for use in fine French perfumes.
|Try the Signet Marigold 'Gem Mix' for an edible treat|
The roots, however, have much more toxic properties, which have been known for centuries as a repellent for one of the most challenging garden pests: nematodes. When these microscopic parasites invade the roots of a plant, knotty lesions quickly develop that cause the host to wilt and die. In areas with high nematode concentrations, farmers and gardeners routinely plant a field of marigolds as a natural nematicide prior to seeding a susceptible variety.
Marigolds originate in Latin America where they were the flower traditionally offered to the deceased, a tradition that continues in contemporary Day of The Dead celebrations in Mexico. Spanish conquistadors brought seeds of the flowers back to Europe, where over time it became the bedding plant we know as French marigold. The process of colonialism later brought the marigold to India and all of Asia, where it quickly became absorbed in religious culture, not to honor the dead, but as an offering to Buddhist and Hindu deities.