Herb of the Year – 2006
Usually when you think of geraniums, you think of the plant with the rounded leaves and the bright red flowers that have a not-so-pleasant odor. Although scented geraniums belong to the same botanical family as true geraniums they are pelargoniums and not really geraniums at all. They are cultivated for their scent and not their showy flowers. They are native to South Africa and introduced to Europe in the 1600’s where they became very popular as house plants for their wonderful fragrance. In the Victorian Era they were used in bouquets, potpourris, ointments, teas, cakes, cookies, jams and jellies. The lemon scented geranium has been marketed lately as “the mosquito plant” because it has citronella oil in the leaves which repels mosquitoes. At first I thought that it was a bad idea to market them in such a way because they can be used for so many more things than just repelling mosquitoes, then I reconsidered and concluded that getting them into peoples homes any way you can was a good idea. Scented Geraniums come in more scents than just lemon. To name just a few: apple, lime, strawberry; nutmeg, rose, peppermint, and citrus. The leaves are the main draw of this great plant. The flowers, though pretty, are small, delicate and don’t continually bloom. They need to be planted in full sun (minimum of 6 hours) and need to be treated as an annual in our climate. They can be wintered through indoors but they tend to get very leggy. Your best bet is to start new every year, and try different varieties so you know which ones you like the best. I like to use scented geraniums in cake, icing, ice cream, butter for fruit bread, and jelly.
SCENTED GERANIUM CAKE
5 large scented geranium leaves
1 white, yellow or chocolate cake mix
Line a 9 X 13 inch cake pan with waxed paper. Spray with PAM. Place leaves evenly on the bottom of the cake pan. Mix cake up according to pkg. instructions. Pour batter over leaves and bake according to directions. When cake is done remove from oven and cool for 5 to 10 minutes. Turn pan upside down onto a cooling rack and remove cake and let it finish cooling. Spread glaze over cake.
1/3 cup butter
2 to 4 Tablespoons hot water
2 cups powdered sugar
1 to 2 Tablespoons scented geranium leaves – chopped
1 1/2 teaspoon vanilla
Mix all the ingredients together in a small bowl until smooth. Pour over cooled cake & spread evenly.
LEMON GERANIUM MOUSSE
2/3 cup heavy cream
finely grated peel and juice of 1 lemon
6 fresh lemon-scented geranium leaves
3/4 cup superfine sugar
4 large eggs, separated
1 envelope unflavored gelatin
2/3 cup water
Garnish with Scented geranium leaves and flowers
Heat the cream gently with the lemon peel and geranium leaves. Take off heat and cool. Beat the sugar and egg yolks until thick, then add in the lemon juice. Sprinkle the gelatin on the water. Place the gelatin in a small saucepan over low heat and stir until it has dissolved completely. Pouring from two feet above egg yolk mixture, fold the gelatin into egg yolks. Beat constantly, then put to one side until it begins to thicken. Strain the cooled cream to remove the peel and leaves, and whip until slightly thickened. Then fold it into the mousse mixture. Stiffly beat the egg whites and fold into the mousse. Pour into individual dessert dishes and chill thoroughly until set. Decorate with fresh geranium leaves and flowers before serving.
ROSE-SCENTED GERANIUM BUTTER
4 to 6 fresh rose-scented geranium leaves (you can use any scent you would like)
1 cup butter, at room temperature
Remove heavy vein from leaves and discard. Place coarsely chopped leaves in the bowl of food processor and pulse on/off until leaves are finely minced. Add butter and blend with leaves. Refrigerate until ready to use. Keeps 2 weeks in the refrigerator or can be put into the freezer.
ROSE GERANIUM JELLY
Make apple jelly as Sur-Jell recipe directs. Place a rose geranium leaf in the bottom of each jar, fill with boiling jelly and place another leaf on top. Put on lids and rings and hot water bath for 5 minutes.