The flowers have a pleasant citrus-like flavor and can be used as a flavoring in salads, sandwiches, wines, etc, or used as a garnish.
Red Gem flowers, botanically classified as Tagetes tenuifolia ‘Red Gem,’ are a lesser-known species of marigold belonging to the Asteraceae family. The small, brightly colored flowers are also known as Citrus Gems and are a part of a single-flower series of signet marigolds valued for their citrus scent and flavor. Signet marigolds are herbaceous annuals derived from a wild marigold species native to Mexico and Central America. The petite flowers are distinct from more common French and African marigold species and showcase frilly foliage favored as a unique landscape plant in home gardens. Red Gem marigold flowers are considered a vintage variety that was once popular but fell out of favor among American gardeners. In the modern-day, the variety is remerging as a unique plant incorporated into herb gardens, as both the leaves and flowers are edible.
Red Gem marigold flowers have a peppery, citrus-like flavor best suited as an edible garnish. The flowers should be harvested just before use, and it is recommended only to use the petals as the base of the flower contains a bitter, unpleasant flavor. Red Gem marigold flowers can be sprinkled into salads, complementing light vinaigrettes, floated on soups, stirred into pasta, mixed into egg-based dishes, or layered on top of fresh biscuits. The petals can also be incorporated into stir-fries and rice or crumbled into cookies, cakes, ice cream, and fillings for pastries. In addition to culinary dishes, Red Gem marigold petals can be frozen into ice cubes, used as a decorative garnish over cocktails, steeped into a tea, blended into smoothies, or stirred into sparkling beverages. The leaves of Red Gem marigolds are also edible and can be tossed into salads, lightly cooked with other vegetables, or chopped into creamy dips. Red Gem marigold flowers pair well with herbs such as mint, lemon balm, and rosemary, fruits such as strawberries, blueberries, raspberries, and grapefruit, bell pepper, mushrooms, ginger, and carrots. Freshly picked Red Gem marigold flowers should be immediately consumed for the best quality and flavor, but flowers with their stems still attached can be placed in water in the refrigerator and stored overnight. The harvested petals will also keep 2 to 3 days when stored in a plastic bag or clamshell in the refrigerator.