Nov 5, 2010

In Praise of the Rose Geranium

Rose geraniums were the most successful plant in the garden this year, and they are still going strong. No pests wanted to eat them and they survived dry spells and rain. They grew huge, but they're woody enough to not trail on the ground. They didn't bloom, but the best thing about them is their delirious scent, both floral and peppery at the same time. Just walking by and catching a whiff is such a calming moment.

My Nana made rose geranium jelly with hers. I haven't done much other than rub a leaf and take a good whiff whenever I've had the notion. Last week, though, I realized that I was running out of time this season, so I took off fifteen leaves, washed and dried them, and layered them with sugar in one of my Nana's blue and white striped ceramic cannisters. The cannister that says "FLOUR" on it, as a matter of fact.

In a few days I will take out the leaves, I supposed by dumping the sugar mixture into a colander over a big bowl and picking them out. Then the oils from the leaves should have flavored the sugar. Geranium sugar is good in cakes or cookies, I have read, but I would only put it in plain buttermilk cakes or sugar cookies, possibly shortbread. Here is a recipe for Victorian Rose Geranium Cake. I wonder if it has too many geraniums in it, though. I suspect it's like lavender; you only want a hint. A simple pound cake made with the geranium sugar, with a light glaze also made with the sugar, might be lovely, an occasion worthy of one's china tea cups. Nan's tea cups. Come to think of it, my Nana was a lot like a rose geranium: strong, long-lived, tenacious in adversity, and very feminine.


So I want to hear how Martha's dinner went last night! If you all still have a lot of green tomatoes, you might want to try this cake recipe I just found. I'd make it today if I weren't going out of town. Here is Green Tomato Cake with Brown Butter Icing.


julienj said...

When I hear "geranium," I think of the hardy, red-flowered plants of my youth, which had a distinctly stinky smell. I just googled rose geranium, and I don't think it's the same thing. Do you happen to know the difference?

Lauren D. McKinney said...

They're actually pelargoniums, not geraniums, but in the vernacular they are misnamed. Here is a link to a little company that sells many types. They explain it well:

Robin said...

This is just lovely! I never knew you could bake with generaniums and until now was only vaguely aware of the practice of baking with flowers at all. When I read your essays I'm transported to a time and place where I do such things. And, remembering your grandmother in such a way is the most lovely thing of all. My mind's eye immediately lit upon the antique cannisters on my own counter. Of course, they were from my grandmother. :) I'll have to put them to better use...