A favourite of Victorian gentry, scented geranium plants (the Pelargonium species) today come in a dizzying array of fragrances and flavours. Several rose-scented cultivars exist, as do those with scents similar to chocolate, nutmeg, hazelnut, lemon, orange, lime, apricot, apple, oak, strawberry, mint, pine, and a host of others. Scented geraniums have many uses beyond simply being used as ornamentals---they also can be use therapeutically, cosmetically and to flavour foods.
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Scented geraniums can lend their distinctive flavours to infused sugar, which in turn can be used to sweeten beverages or bake cakes. To infuse sugar, pour several inches of granulated sugar into jar, lay a few leaves of your chosen scented geranium on top of the sugar, pour a few more inches of sugar on top, add a few leaves, and so on. Allow the layered mixture to steep indefinitely, and use whenever you want a nuanced taste of rose-geranium, herbal nutmeg, or floral apple.
Whether you're making a double-layer sponge cake, a pound cake or raisin-nut bread, scented geranium leaves can add an old fashioned flavour. After greasing the bottom of the pan, line the bottom with 10 to 20 scented geranium leaves. After the cake is baked, invert the pan, remove the geranium leaves, and decorate the cake. To add even more depth of flavour, infuse a cream with the additional geranium leaves before whipping. Pair geranium flavours with the cake recipe in ways you find most inspiring---rose pelargonium with buttery tea cake, lemon-flavoured geranium with blueberry bundt, nutmeg-scented geranium with banana-walnut bread, and so on.
Among the more exotic scents you can add to potpourris---without resorting to artificial fragrance oils--are the leaves of apricot-, hazelnut-, spice- and coconut-scented geraniums. To make a classic rose-geranium potpourri, Adelma Grenier Simmons' "Herb Gardening in Five Seasons" recommends mixing three cups of various types of dried rose geranium leaves with one-quarter cup orris root powder, two drops of rose geranium oil, and genuine rose petals for colour.
Perfume and Fragrance Crafting
Scented geraniums offer perfume makers an opportunity to mimic some of the more exotic scents often only available as artificial fragrances. To create a unique infused oil or alcohol tincture, fill a jar with scented geranium leaves and cover them with olive or sweet almond oil, or an alcohol base of 100-proof vodka. After two weeks, strain the mixture. For a recipe that calls for either an alcohol or carrier oil additive, the geranium-leaf creations can be used in candles, soaps, lotions, bath oils and bath fizzes. Especially in soaps and bath salts, crumbled dried leaves of the various geraniums often make charming additions.
Holistic healers use massage oils infused with rose geranium leaves, especially the P. Graveolens cultivar, to ease premenstrual tension and bloating, boost moods, and heal eczema and other skin conditions, according to the "Plants For A Future" online database (www.pfaf.org). Hot-water infusions of the leaf are also used to improve the complexion.
Tea Time Treats
The leaves of scented geraniums can be used to make fragrant teas that have many of the health and mood benefits listed above. Additionally, jelly makers use the petals and leaves of the plants to create lovely jewel-toned herbal jellies. The petals also can be used to garnish fruit and green salads.
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