One of my favourite herbal plants is a scented rose geranium, which gives off a delicious scent of rose when the leaves are crushed. The houseplants we commonly call geraniums are actually Pelargoniums in botanical-speak. They are tender perennials, originating in South Africa. But no matter the name, the rose geranium is one of my Must Have plants. While it’s not a flowering specimen—the flowers are insignificant—rose geranium is more than worth it to grow for the scent alone.
In nature, there are some plants and flowers that have complex aromas and flavors. Probably the best example of this is wine grapes. Just think of all the words to describe your favorite wines: berry, chocolate, citrus, oaky, grassy. The list is almost endless. In the world of herbs, scented geraniums are similar.
I use it as a ‘walk by” form of aromatherapy, grabbing a leaf and burying my nose in it, for a shot of wondrous olfactory bliss. This is the kind of thing you need in November, or any winter day, really. The scent is similar to the Attar of Rose scent, a true rose fragrance.
As I was cutting my plant back today—preparing for some cuttings for propagation—I had to remove some leaves and thought, instead of composting therse, why haven’t I ever used the leaves in some kind of potion or food? This fall I’m exploring that possibility. After some Googling, Martha Stewart came to the rescue with several uses for scented geranium leaves. She has an easy recipe for a flavoured sugar, which is simply layering leaves and sugar in a jar, and a recipe for a pound cake. She also gives instructions for preserving the leaves as potpourri. (Basically just drying the leaves, and stuffing them into muslin bags. What’s easier than that?)
Using scented geraniums as culinary flavourings, in bouquets (nosegays) and to ward off pests came into vogue with the Victorians. The available scents were many:
Rose, lemon, lime, orange, filbert, nutmeg. almond, apple, anise, pine, musk, violet, lavender, balm, oak, and peppermint.
While I have tried growing many of the others, I always come back to the rose version as my favourite. The citrus geranium, containing citronella, is sometimes touted as a mosquito repellent. I haven’t found that merely having one around does much to discourage mosquitos, but I won’t hold that against it.
Here is a recipe for Rose-scented Geranium Shortbread from Sally Bernstein. (scroll down) You’ll find many, many more uses for scented geraniums at this UK Geranium site including jellies, cosmetic uses and a recipe for a Pelargonium Liqueur. I think I’m going to be getting out the vodka as well!