"Plants with Benefits: An Uninhibited Guide to the Aphrodisiac Herbs, Fruits, Flowers & Veggies in Your Garden," by Helen Yoest (St. Lynn's Press, 2014, $17.95) takes a look at 45 plants with a reputation.
It's more about history and lore, about ethnobotany, cooking, teas and potions, than a "how-to", which I always find more engaging anyway. Helen puts it this way, "So began my quest to understand how plants can play with our erotic feelings, as well as stimulate our sense of wellbeing and receptivity to intimacy."
The book is a bit of a tease, with a photo of....suggestive looking?.... asparagus tips on the back....but what would you expect with that title? It is in fact a lighthearted study of plants that throughout time have been used to stir up our brain chemistry, or are suggestive because of their smell or shape.
Did you know that the aroma of almonds is said to arouse female passion, along with their amino acids? That
the Aztecs called avocadoes the "fertility fruit" and kept their virgin daughters indoors when they were being harvested? Then there are figs and roses, jasmine and parsley. Even when scientific evidence is scarce, the recipes look good...and how about watermelon being called "the fruit of multiple pleasures?"
So, Yoest may be stretching sometimes, but I see this little book, filled with color photos and lively text, as part of the movement toward useful gardens...for whatever reason. Gardens aren't just to look at any more... They're to grow vegetables and fruit, flowers for cutting and fragrance, to attract and nourish bees, butterflies and birds, as a place of sanctuary, to entertain...and this book also entertains!
Oh, and Casanova... Yoest not only quotes Virgil as saying that arugula increases sexual desire in drowsy people, but writes" That famous lover Casanova was known to eat celery regularly to stimulate his libido."
Happy Valentines Day....