It is perhaps no coincidence that two of my favorite books are centered around the love of food, and the food of love.
If you are looking for some inspired Valentines Day reading try Like Water for Chocolate by Laura Esquivel. Then there is the equally brilliant memoir from Isabelle Allende, Aphrodite.
Your mouth will water!
Fortunately, there is a large selection of plants that boast aphrodisiac properties.
Your lawn, sadly, is not one of them.
So in an effort to inspire you to tear up a patch of grass and start gardening in the interests of an improved love life, here’s a short list of aphrodisiacs that can be easily grown at home.
In Sheikh Nefzawi’s The Perfumed Garden, asparagus is recommended to fortify the libido. Planting asparagus is an investment in pleasure, a productive patch will reliably produce for 20 years or more. Delicate asparagus is best prepared as fresh and as simply as possible. Steam briefly (overcooking asparagus will make the spears flaccid) and serve with lots of melted butter. Eat with your fingers.
Chili peppers arouse your endorphins, will make you sweat and get your heart racing. My favourite way to eat them is my candied chilli recipe, then dip the candied rounds in dark chocolate. Or if you are feeling particularly really racy and lewd, try Peter Peppers.
Ripe with biblical innuendo, the fig represents fertility. Filled with antioxidants, iron, and potassium, the humble fig will keep you sustained in times that demand stamina. The author of Lady Chatterley’s Lover, D.H. Laurence, was so enamored with figs he immortalized them in the erotic poem, Fig. Best eaten fresh, but if you can’t find them, dried figs poached in a rośe syrup are also delicious.
The flowers of this “miracle tree” are used in omelets and taste of mushrooms. The slightly astringent leaves are packed with vitamins and minerals, essential for maintaining peak rigour. Moringa lowers corticosterone (stress hormone) levels while increasing testosterone, and sperm count. Studies have illustrated that moringa enhanced the sexual performance of stressed rats. A convincing endorsement as any!
It’s hard to believe, but in the 19th century, the obsequious pomodoro had questionable “morality” and the Catholics placed it on a list of forbidden fruits, banned for its ability to fuel lust. Most likely, it was the stimulating effect of the numerous anti-oxidants, potassium and calcium in the fruit that inspired such passion. Easily grown in a pot or in the garden, tomato bushes usually need a strong trellis to support their unruly growth.
The original love apple, pomegranates are otherwise known as nature’s Viagra for their reputed effect on the libido. Pomegranate is a drought resilient, somewhat scruffy looking plant, but the small jewel-like segments within the leathery skin of the fruit are packed with anti-oxidants and tart juice that apparently has a positive effect on blood flow.
I planted rocket many seasons ago in my garden and let it go to seed, and it has come back to oblige me with a visit every springtime since. And good for me! For rocket, (or arugula for those of you who don’t live in Australia!) aids digestion and its spicy flavour is said to enliven the brain. The ancient Romans consecrated this vigorous plant to their ridiculously well-endowed fertility god, Priapus, such was its repute. And the chickens will happily devour whatever rocket you have spare and produce gorgeous, deep orange yolks in thanks.
The Greeks believed olive oil was a tonic for virility. Certainly, the monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats in olive oil are essential for a healthy heart, good circulation, and hormone production. The best quality olive oil comes from the first cold press of the fruit and is green, grassy, cloudy and fruity. In my suburb, olive trees are planted as street trees, much to the consternation of residents. Black olives stain the pathways and attract corella galahs that feast on the fruit. Should any spill from your plate, be assured olive oil is also an excellent massage oil.
Watermelon is a sweet refreshing treat any time of the day. And the lycopene stored in its juicy flesh relaxes blood vessels and said to be essential for a healthy prostate. Watermelon is a rambling plant that will quickly spill out of any bed you plant it in. If you are seeking something exotic, try the sweet, yellow fleshed Champagne watermelon. Its short season means it is rarely found at the market, enjoyed almost exclusively by those patient enough to grow it at home…
Ok, not technically a plant, but without pollen and nectar and bees, honey would not exist. Raw honey extracted with the pollen from the comb will boost even the most exhausted of constitutions. Bee pollen will literally protect your heart, as it contains Rutin, a rare antioxidant that strengthens capillaries and blood vessels.
I think it is no mistake that so many delicious, fruit and vegetables have romantic reputations. It makes sense that such a diet would soon have you cartwheeling about with renewed passion.
So feel free to happily ingest as many fresh aphrodisiacs from your garden as you can muster. And if by some great tragedy your love life is not elevated to the pinnacles of passion, at the very least, you’ll be happier and healthier for it.