Monday, July 10, 2006

The History of Potpourri

People utilized the fragrances of flowers, herbs and spices for at least 6,000 years. Originally, herbs, scented oils, extracts, and incense were used only in religious rituals and ceremonies. However, the nobility and the wealthy began to indulge in scented products. The extravagant Roman emperors used them in festivals, rituals, and sporting events. The Romans indulged in public bathing and constructed elaborate bath houses where people had aromatic oils massaged onto their bodies and in their hair and beards to enhance the bathing experience.

By the Middle Ages in Europe, however, bathing became quite rare. Houses had very little or no plumbing, and public bathing was condemned as immoral by the religious community. There was poor ventilation in buildings and homes. In order to combat odors in castles and banquet halls, fragrant herbs were strewn on the ground so that they would be trampled by the crowds of people, thus releasing the fragrances into the air. People also carried nosegays, small bunches of fragrant herbs which were held close to the nose when there were strong odors around. Bunches of fragrant flowers were also hung in doorways and on rafters. Some people dried flower petals and placed them into sachet bags and put them in drawers to scent the clothes and repel insects.

In order to freshen rooms, people collected partially dried rose petals and placed them between layers of salt in covered jars and left them to cure or rot, thus the name potpourri which means "rotten pot" in French. When the jars were uncovered, the fragrance filled the room. Although this method was fragrant, it was unattractive because the bleaching action of the salt discolored the beautiful flower petals.

Today, potpourri is made with totally dried flower petals, thus preserving the beautiful colors as well as smelling fragrant and fixatives are added to hold the scent. With all of the varieties of flower petals, leaves, spices, herbs, dried fruit peels and slices many wonderfully colorful and fragrant potpourri combinations can be made.

Copyright © 2006 TC Fragrance Crafts.

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