Pretty Polly Scented Geranium Culinary

The species used to create the scented geraniums originated mainly from the Cape of Good Hope area in South Africa. They were introduced into England as a curiosity in the 1630s, but by the 1840s the French realized their potential as an essential oil source.

Steam distillation of rose geranium (P graveolens) yields an essential oil with an enlivening true rose fragrance that is added to perfumes and toiletries. It is produced on the island of Reunion and also in Algeria, China, Egypt, India and Morocco.

The scented geraniums are soft to semi-hard wooded shrubs or subshrubs with a very wide range of leaf shapes. p graveolens is an upright multi-stemmed small shrub to 3 ft. (90 cm), with bright 9reen, much indented leaves that create a lacy shape. The small flowers are mid-pink r°uged with bright ruby on the upper Petals, and are borne in terminal umbels.

Pretty Polly Geranium
Pelargonium quercifolium 'Fair Ellen'

Scented geranium

Continued

• P. x osperum, the 18th-century 'M. Ninon' (apricot)

• P. x seabrum 'Mabel Gray' (intense lemon sherbet)

• the pungently woodsy-scented hybrids of P. quercifolium, such as 'Staghorn Oak; 'Clorinda,' 'Chocolate Mint,' 'Fair Ellen,' 'Endsleigh' and 'Pretty Polly'

• the reputedly insect-repelling 'Citronella' syn. 'Citrosa,' a derivative of P. x osperum

• Position Pelargoniums are drought-resistant, and, where space is limited, a collection can be kept in well-drained pots in a sunny position.

• Propagation Propagate scented geraniums from 4-in. (10-cm) cuttings taken in late summer and inserted into a sterilized mix. Make sure to protect them from frost.

Scented geraniums, with their attractive leaves in a wide range of heavenly scents, are a culinary treat. Try using them in the following ways.

■ Add dried leaves of rose or lemon varieties to the lea caddy.

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• Maintenance Regular harvesting restricts the size of larger specimens. They should be only lightly fertilized, preferably in spring. Water thoroughly when the upper soil dries out.

• Pests and diseases They cannot tolerate poorly drained soil and will suffer root rot and death from soil fungi, such as Pythium, Verticillium and Fusarium.

• Harvesting and storing Harvest and dry leaves at any time for pot-pourri (see Around the Home, page 284) and for sleep pillows (see Craft, page 300). Harvesting for distillation occurs around midsummer.

■ Finely chop fresh leaves. Infuse in warmed liquid such as cream or milk. Strain, and use liquid to make ire creams, sweet custards and sauces for desserts.

■ Infuse red wine vinegar wilh rose geranium and fresh raspberries. Strain after a week for a summer salad vinegar.

■ Place a cake still warm from ihe oven on top of leaves to absorb the fragrance. Try rose geranium wilh vanilla pound cake or peppermint geranium with a chocolate sponge. Remove the leaves when ihe cake has cooled.

■ Line Jell-o molds with leaves (left) and pour a jelly on lop to set.

Natural beauty

Rose geranium [Pelargonium graveolens) is the classic beauty pick-me-up. lis loning effect revives tired skin and the fresh, pungent smell revives body and mind. Its toning and balancing properties leave hair and scalp clean and fresh. It is a mild anti-irritant. making it helpful for any inflammation, including minor wounds and insect bites. It also helps control stress-triggered oil production, which can result in pimple breakouts.

Continue reading here: Herbal medicine

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