Scented Geranium (Pelargonium)
Scented geranium is the perfect plant for your kitchen window because it's useful as well as attractive. Outdoors, they are half-hardy perennials that can't tolerate frost. The plant, which originated in Africa, was first "discovered" by Tradescent, the gardener of Charles I of England. He grew a number of varieties in the royal greenhouses.
The foliage of the different varieties of scented geraniums have unique and striking aromas. You can choose between lemon scented, P. crispum minor; apple scented, P. odoratissium; oak-leaf scented, P. quercifolium; rose scented, P. graveolens; Nutmeg scented, P. fragrans; peppermint scented, P. tomentosum, and many others. The flowers may be white, pink, purple, red or variegated and usually have no fragrance.
The plants have dark green, pale green or green-and-cream variegated leaves. They may be deeply cut or frilled and may vary in size from ½ to three inches across. The five-petaled flowers are borne in clusters and are long-lived. Height varies considerably, and may be between 1 foot and 3 feet. The stems are tough and woody.
Pelargonium are grown from tip cuttings taken in spring and summer. Mature plants sometimes send out root suckers that can be carefully removed from the mother plant. They like a good, well-drained soil, plenty of sun, and protection from cold. In hot, dry weather you will need to water the plants. Grown inside, they will need plant food once a week to encourage full leaf growth. The plants should be cut back in winter to prevent their becoming straggly.
Rose and lemon varieties are particularly well-suited to containers. Peppermint Pelargonium does better when planted in the shade of a tree or shrub and allowed to grow right up into the branches.
The fresh leaves may be infused in milk, cream, and syrups for desserts, sherbets, custards and ices.
Chop the leaves into softened butter for sandwiches and cake fillings. Makes an excellent garnish.
Rose scented varieties are used to flavor stewed apples and pears and apple jelly.
When making cakes and pies, line the pans with the leaves. To make them lie flat, dip into hot water and shake dry.
Add a leaf to an herbal tea.