Arbaroriza (Αρμπαρόριζα), a scented geranium, known botanically as Pelargonium graveolens, grows in our garden. It is easy to propogate and requires very little care. In fact, last year I made a lot of clippings and stuck them in pots of compost, thinking that there would be some failures. Well, they all rooted (unlike the box cuttings which you can see behind in the photo below). Naturally, I had to find places to plant them.
It was difficult deciding where to place them. One option was the window boxes on the veranda, where, at the time, there are a few rather alien (ugly) looking cactuses that I thought might be better relocated to the arid nether regions of the property. Another option was for the arbaroriza to fill a blank area opposite the herb garden. I went with the area next to the herb garden, but those cacti (now removed from the window boxes) are still slated for reallocation.
Arbaroriza is a common plant in Greek gardens and can also be found growing wild in the countryside. In the spring, it produces pretty pink flowers (seen in the photo below). But, it is the slightly furry branched leaf that is prized here, mainly for culinary uses.
Traditionally the leaves are used as an additional flavouring in making quince spoon-sweet (γληκό). In fact, a friend told me that her mother grows them in her garden specifically for use in her quince spoon sweets. A very practical approach to gardening – beauty and function combined. The blog Mulberry and Pomegranate has a great recipe for this sort of γληκό using scented geranium leaves in one of her In My Kitchen (IMK) posts from a few years ago.
The leaves can also be used to scent cakes, as a slightly mild anise flavoured herb with rice in stuffed vegetables (something tried during the summer), or chopped in salads (ditto). I’ve even seen mention of it dried and infused as a tisane. Last winter, we were given a taste of a homemade liqueur made from the infused leaves, made by the same friend’s mother who grows them for her quince γληκό – a new experiment of her’s. Naturally, I asked for the recipe: 40 leaves of arbaroriza + lots and lots (and lots more) of sugar + non-anise flavoured tsipouro (or vodka) + leave it sit for a while, then strain and drink. Easy!
What I eventually decided to make, as inspiration struck after decanting my simple quince liqueur, was to combine arbaroriza with quince. These flavours are traditional in making spoon sweets, so why not mingle them in a liqueur?
I’ve modified the quince liqueur recipe (Ratafia de Coings) I use from Susan Loomis’ book, French Farmhouse Cookbook (a book I have blogged about). Also, the amount of sugar is half the amount that the original arbaroriza recipe called for. The liqueur is still sweet, but not overly so.
- 3-5 leaves of Arbaroriza (scented geranium, Pelargonium graveolens)
- 2 large quinces
- 250g sugar
- 700ml vodka
Wash the leaves of the arbaroriza, rip them into pieces. Clean the quince and grate the flesh, leaving the skin on, but discarding the core. Put the grated quince and arbaroriza pieces in layers in a wide mouthed jar. Add the sugar and vodka and place the lid on the jar, shaking it every once in a while until the sugar dissolves (which should take a few days). A hinged wide-mouth jar holding about 2 to 2-1/2 litres with a glass lid and rubber seal is ideal for the job. Leave the jar in a cool dark place for about 1 to 2 months. Decant and strain out the shredded quince, squeezing all the liquid out. Discard the solids. The liqueur will initially appear cloudy, but eventually sediment will fall. It is optional to filter the liqueur.
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I’ve also encountered a similar homemade liqueur – a sweetened rosé wine, arbaroriza and cinnamon. Very nice – might try this one next year.