Scented Geraniums Flavor Sweets Pies and Herbal Teas

Pelargonium graveolens
Image via Wikipedia –Pelargonium graveolens

Scented geraniums are a group of flowering plants native to South Africa, the pelargoniums. Members of the Pelargonium genus are of the Geraneaceae family, or Geranium family, so they are often called geraniums. However, they’re not to be confused with the North American native wild geranium, Geranium maculatum, commonly known as crane’s bill for the look of its seed pod.

Scented geraniums are grown for their scented foliage more so than for their flowers. Indeed, some gardeners clip off the flower stalk before it gets a chance to bloom, instead enjoying the aroma of the leaves. Many varieties have been developed with different scents. Rose, lemon, orange, chocolate, nutmeg, cinnamon, lime, ginger, apple and mint are some of the dozens of scented geraniums that may be available at your local garden center.

The flowers bloom in white, pinks, corals, reds and purple in round umbels. Each blossom has heart-shaped petals that make a cute addition to potpourri or romantic offerings. The foliage may be variegated or draped from a hanging basket in certain varieties. Leaves are soft and velvety due to a coating of soft hairs. Some leaves are scallop-edged, large and roundish, while others are palmately compound or deeply lobed or dissected.

Scented geraniums require full sun for the best growth. Dry, sandy soil is preferred over clay or wet conditions. These hardy summer-blooming plants can survive drought conditions and will attract insects when its feet are wet. Let the soil at the top of the pot dry out before watering again. Geraniums are frost tender, so they need to be potted and taken indoors or overwintered in a greenhouse. Otherwise, they can be treated as annuals in northern climates.

Leaves and flowers are edible and used to flavor sweets, cakes, custards and puddings with a floral scent. Heat the liquid for a recipe with dried rose geranium leaves, let the mixture cool and strain. The resulting liquid will have a rosy, floral aroma. Jellies and herb vinegars can be accented with scented geranium leaves. Petals can be pulled off the flowers and used to decorate salads and sweet dishes.

The leaves can be layered in a sugar bowl to give the sweetener a pleasant scent that is truly appreciated in herbal teas. Press leaves into pie crust before filling and baking for a surprising and uplifting scent. Scented geranium leaves are used in herbal tea blends to impart a large variety of aromas.

Pelargonium leaves are steam distilled to produce essential oil of geranium, which smells like rose oil. Geranium oil can be substituted for the more expensive rose oil and is often found as an adulterant in rose oil. The leaves, or oil from the leaves, are used to scent linens, bed pillows, wine, foods, medicinal ointments, perfumes, potpourri and bath oil. A massage oil for aromatherapy is used to balance the mood, lift depression and relax anxieties. Geranium oil is generally recognized as safe when small amounts are added to foods for seasoning or flavoring.

4 thoughts on “Scented Geraniums Flavor Sweets Pies and Herbal Teas

  1. Hi Amy,

    Have you tried drying it in a microwave? If the plant material can be pressed between some paper with a few layers of thin cardboard, it might work. It could be dried quickly in the microwave and perhaps save the green color.

    Give it a try and let us know how it works!

  2. To answer Amy’s question from more than a year ago… i’ve dried my rose scented geraniums for the first time this past season. Much to my surprise and delight they did keep their color and i’m looking forward to using the leaves for more than just potpourri. Here’s what i did: Cutting the branches back to a more manageable size to overwinter on the sun porch; (the base plant is growing well with 50 new leaves within less than 6 weeks)
    With all those branches and beautiful leaves left over; i’d hoped to make teas & syrups and scented sugars plus Anne Burrell’s Mother’s Geranium Cake.
    i proceeded as follows: i rinsed the branches well and then removed the leaves from the branches at the base of the leaves, placing them in a large plastic bin (typically used for storing seasonal clothing)
    Now, there is a time factor to consider but i’d have to admit; my leaves had been off the plant for about 2 days before i got around to processing.
    i remembered how i’ve refreshed herbs and lettuces that have appeared lifeless (wilted) and they’d come back to life some so i thought why not try the same with the rose scented geranium leaves, as they are a pretty sturdy leaf anyway.
    What could it hurt? So i proceeded to soak the cut leaves in cool water for about a half hour or more prior to a second and third rinsing or until the water appeared to be well clear of plant and garden debris.
    i placed the leaves on the lid of the plastic bin lined with paper towel and patted them dry again and again, replacing the towels as needed. Covering each layer with more paper towel being sure to keep leaves in a single layer and placing the paper towels loosely over the leaves so as not to crowd the leaves and to keep moisture from becoming trapped.
    i’ve kept the leaves for several weeks in my living room away from moisture and the dust of the sun porch.
    Much to my surprise; the leaves have stayed green which i wasn’t expecting. i had thought they’d turn yellow as they do while drying on the plant but i’m very pleased to find that there is a difference.
    i’ve concluded the yellowing or browning is a dying away and not what the leaves will do when dried. They are a pleasant green color and dried beautifully.
    i’m not all that certain as to what one tip lead to my success but i’m certain the soaking, rinsing, drying and drying again and dry conditions and keeping covered did help.
    i hope this helps anyone of you to dream of enjoying your scented geraniums all year long.
    You will likely agree; the sweeter things in life are better when they are shared so as you dabble in ways to preserve your rose scented geranium leaves and enjoy them for medicinal, flavoring and scenting; share the blessings with someone else.

  3. Carol,

    As with so many things if we take the time to be careful, study the problem at hand and try, try again, we’ll succeed. Congratulations on your successful drying of the scented geraniums. Retaining the bright green color and scents of the leaves resulted from your careful handling of the plant material and the care you took to completely dry the leaves. I’m curious what will you use them for besides making a rose-scented cake?

    Is your sun room heated or does it just receive sunlight? I’m wondering about the conditions of your mother plant for overwintering.

    Thanks for taking the time to write!

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