Pelargonium graveolens rose geraniumScented geraniums are species are cultivars characterized by fragrant leaves. They are all in the genus Pelargonium and should be distinguished from true geraniums that are in the genus Geranium and are edible but have less flavor. Scented geraniums are shrubby evergreen perennials and are sensitive to frost. The leaves have more fragrance than the unremarkable flowers that are less showy than those of other Pelargoniums. Different species and cultivars of scented geraniums differ in taste and scent and include almond, rose, mint, citronella, orange, lemon, grapefruit, hazelnut, celery, coconut, strawberry, pineapple, peach, nutmeg, and many more. The rose geranium, Pelargonium graveolens, is one of the best.

Although use of the leaves for fragrance and flavor is far more popular and effective, use of the flowers in cooking adds color as well as light flavor. Using both leaves and flowers gives a double punch. Try using them in jellies, jams, vinegar, creams for pastry, and sugars for baking. A simple syrup using the flowers of a rose scented geranium makes a pleasant and unique liqueur when added to vodka.

The flowers are produced sporadically and in small numbers. Harvest them when they first open and separate the petals from the stalk and center. Forty to sixty flowers yields one cup of petals.

Hint: Use the leaves for the best results, adding flowers for extra eye appeal.

By Karen