It is not only medicinal properties that make herbs special; they can also be used as decorations that bring a more pleasant atmosphere to your home. The various kinds of potpourri are a great help in this regard, and you can easily prepare them on your own. You will use herbs picked in nature or your own garden, and you can prepare whichever aromatic mixture your heart desires. A homemade potpourri can also work as a wonderful and yet inexpensive gift.
What exactly is potpourri? The translation from French is, admittedly, a little off-putting, as it means „rotten pot”. But we really don‘t need to worry about that. It refers to a container with dried aromatic
herbs and spices, sometimes enhanced with essential oils. This harmony of fragrances fills your home and makes it even cozier.
FIRST DROWN OUT UNPLEASANT SMELLS, AND LATER ENJOY THE AROMA
The history of potpourri is as long as the desire of people (particularly women) to beautify their homes. In the Middle Ages, however, its purpose was to drown out unpleasant smells, which at the time were no doubt fairly common. This habit spread from France to England, and then further across the European continent. In the 19th century, potpourri gained a popularity so great that it was in every better-off house, and played an integral role in middle-class culture. Potpourri was placed in rounded earthenware vessels or porcelain, similar to vases, which had lids pocked with holes through which the scents could escape. In order to further intensify the aroma of the ingredients, the container was usually placed near a fireplace or stove.
A SIMPLE, NATURAL, AND EFFECTIVE DECORATION
Nowadays, potpourri lovers usually have their fragrant mixture placed out in the open, stored in a nice ceramic or wooden bowl, or hung in a decorative breathable bag. But there are more options! We can create potpourri in many different forms – not just as a simple mixture of herbs in a bowl, but also in the form of a scented ball, a wreath, a garland, a scented pillow, a dried bouquet or anything else that comes to mind. It’s simply a case of what you prefer and what you have the ingredients for.
What Is Potpourri Made From?
The different components of a potpourri serve different tasks. It contains flowers that add color or scent, along with scented leaves, spices, and scent-fixing agents. Pieces of dry wood are also added to the mixture, which may not always be aromatic at first, but have a decorative purpose – they can be colored with artificial dyes in interesting ways and scented with fragrant essences. Other items are also added to make the potpourri more visually appealing, such as various ribbons, beads, and so on.
The basics are shavings from fragrant or decorative woods (juniper, cedar, cypress), various fragrant herbs in the form of both flowers and sprigs (lavender, reseda, rose, marjoram, oregano and others), fragrant fruits, and seeds and spices (cinnamon, clove). Citrus slices or pieces of citrus peel are an irreplaceable component that can be used both for decoration and for scenting. Essential oils can be dripped into the mixture and are also excellent for enhancing the aroma.
HOW TO PREPARE A POTPOURRI
It is always important to aim for a balanced and harmonious final mixture, where one aroma doesn’t overpower the others. That is why you should think about the concentrations of oils and be very careful with the strong ones. You can dry the herbs throughout the year as they mature in your garden.
OPT FOR AROMATIC BLOOMS
Rose flowers (individual petals or small buds) and lavender are most often used for fragrance. Lavender blooms should be used before they are fully developed as they then hold their shape better.
Carnation, hyacinth, jasmine, lily of the valley, lilac, violet, orange tree and lilies also smell wonderful.
BLOSSOMS AS EYE CANDY
For a splash of color, you can add chicory, cornflower, calendula, poppy, forget-me-nots, daisy, sage, strawflowers, and even blooming willow branches to your potpourri.
The aroma of fragrant leaves is often even stronger than the aroma of blooms. They are dried whole, but they are broken or crushed into the mixture. Basil, tarragon, marjoram, lemon balm, woodruff, mint, rosemary and laurel are all great options.
This is where you have to be careful, because these ingredients can have a really strong aroma. Use roughly 1 tablespoon per 34 fluid ounces / 1 liter of the mixture, and crush the spices in a mortar – that way you will get the strongest aroma. Anise, star anise, cinnamon, ginger, parsley and angelica root, nutmeg, dill seeds, cloves, or coriander can all be used.
These too belong to the most fragrant ingredients you will use. The peel should be dried well before use, and the pith should be peeled off before drying. The dry peel is pounded in a mortar or chopped into small pieces. For this, all citrus fruits work very well.
If we need to support a scent or revive an older potpourri that has lost some of its aroma, we can turn to aromatic oils. But pay attention to the dosage so as not to overdo it – just a few drops will always be enough.
MIXING THE INGREDIENTS
Mix all the ingredients and store in a closed container for several weeks. There, the ingredients combine and the mixture matures. If opened too soon, you may not like it at first, but usually it is enough to wait a few more weeks: the result will be a fragrant harmony. The approach to any particular mixture depends on the creativity of anyone who sets out to create a potpourri.