The Garden's Sexiest Plants
Author Helen Yoest holds forth on the rumored libido-enhancing effects of plants with benefits.
“I didn’t set out to write a botanical Kama Sutra,” says author Helen Yoest in the introduction to her new book Plants with Benefits: An Uninhibited Guide to the Aphrodisiac Herbs, Fruits, Flowers & Veggies In Your Garden. “I am a gardener. I’m intrigued by the idea that many plants have a special appeal to one or more of our senses…I think that’s one reason some gardens give us such a deep feeling of contentment.”
So she pitched the idea of gardening for all five senses to her publisher, who suggested she narrow the focus to aphrodisiac plants. Sex sells, right? “So began my quest to understand how plants can play with our erotic feelings, as well as stimulate our sense of well-being and receptivity to intimacy,” Yoest writes. “Very soon it became clear that Mother Nature, in collusion with that sly fellow, Pan, had not only provided us humans with a cornucopia of plants that feed and heal us, but that assure our continual interest in procreation.”
From almonds to watermelon, Yoest shares the history of each aphrodisiac and anecdotes, plus growing details and tips and even a few recipes (tomato temptation, anyone?).
Ready to talk dirty? Here are just a few of her findings:
"If you were a male in the 19th century France, your prenuptial dinner included three courses of these sexy spears," author of Plants With Benefits: An Uninhibited Guide to the Aphrodisiac Herbs, Fruits, Flowers and Veggies in Your Garden Helen Yoest says. "They couldn’t have known at the time, but asparagus is rich in folic acid, which is said to boost histamine production," says Yoest, an essential ingredient in the arsenal of love.
"Absente contains anise, or aniseed, which was used as both a food and aphrodisiac during Classical times," Yoest says. "Pliny the Elder and physician and botanist Dioscorides recorded its use in flavoring foods and wine. According to popular lore, you could increase desire by sucking on the seeds of this annual herb."
"The Greeks referred to the carrot as a philtron, meaning a love potion or love charm (from philos, meaning loving)," Yoest says. "The Romans also believed in the carrot’s aphrodisiac attributes. Carrots were common in a Roman garden where the root and seed were thought to increase the libido."
"Hippocras, or spiced wine, includes several plants with benefits including cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg, cloves, cardamom, coriander, cayenne and honey," Yoest says. "During the Roman Empire, Hippocras was a well-loved drink for its aphrodisiac reputation on many levels: The scent of red wine resembles a man’s pheromones, thus exciting women."
"It is thought that the Aztecs were the first to draw a link between the cocoa bean and sexual desire," Yoest says. "The story goes that the Aztec ruler Montezuma called it the 'divine drink' and consumed 50 goblets of cacao daily for strength. We probably don’t need to go to these heroics, but a sip with a date is a nice start (or end) to a wonderful evening."