A love note to orange blossoms...

Summer dreams
of love and warmth and beauty
of evening light
and shimmering bottles
sandy feet
and the orange blossom...

Image via Carolyn Quartermaine
Outside it is storming.
Winter is having its final say.

Meanwhile, I’m having a love affair with orange blossom.
In my bath. In my tea. Spritzed onto my face
I am transported to Italy
Barefoot with expresso and figs and salty hair
Terracotta coloured dreams
Hazy with heat
Heady with fragrence.

And in the next moment, orange blossom and I are in Morrocco
in a bustling souk
on scratchy camel hair blankets camouflaged into the dusty ground
dotted with jewel-like pomegranates
staining my fingers crimson.

Image via Jade Brand Studio

I know I’m always banging on about living in the moment and embracing the gifts of each season... but at around this time every year I start to really crave the sun. If I had my way, February would be spent somewhere warm. Somewhere I could unlayer and reawaken from a long winter slumber. Unfurl my creaky, translucent limbs, eat fruit, float in salt water, and drown in books. Alas, this is also the month that the market garden needs to be fed with 20 tonnes (not exaggerating) of cow manure and buckets needs to be placed strategically around the house to catch leaks... But a vata and a dreamer by nature, I wouldn’t be content to let my image of a sun soaked scene completely escape me. 

So over the years I have started to develop a strategy for overcoming my annual Seasonal Affective Disorder and mentally transforming our blustery Yorkshire bolthole into a Tuscan villa. A few of my essentials include:
- Fig and tuberose scented candles
- Historical novels
- A comprehensive Billy Holliday playlist
- Monty Don’s Italian Gardens 

But perhaps the most important member of the anti-SAD cavalry is orange blossom water. It has so many uses and benefits and yet is a real unsung hero of the wellness, beauty, and culinary world (~ unless you are into Persian cooking - they really appreciate orange blossom). So here is my ode to orange blossom (also known as Neroli) and some ideas of how you can incorporate it into your life to significantly boost your mood and lustre.
Image via Backstage Tales

~ Health Benefits ~
  • Reduces anxiety
  • Promotes deeper sleep
  • Supports healthy digestion
  • Helps to relieve headaches and menstrual cramps
  • Hydrating for the hair and skin
  • Anti-bacterial 
~ Apéritif ~

Splash some culinary orange blossom water into hot water as an after dinner digestif. Or, combine with soda water, lime juice, a slice of orange and a sprig of rosemary for an uplifting mocktail. You only need a small amount for an explosion of flavour, but trust me, one sip of orange blossom nectar and you’ll be hooked!

~ Perfuming Meals ~

From cakes and crumbles to tagines, orange blossom water is a beautiful additive to many recipes. Many Morroccan and Middle Eastern recipes employ orange blossom water as a floral note to play upon the palate, providing sensory texture and contrast, particularly with heavier dishes or sweets.
I love to add a spoonful of orange blossom water to my fruit compote in the morning - it pairs perfectly with berries, rhubarb and plums. It is also a natural accompaniment to almonds (think almond cake, or almond crumble) and pomegranates. It is lovely stirred into yoghurt, baked into shortbread, dressing grain dishes... the list goes on. I am always excited to find new delicious ways to incorporate this incredible ingredient into meals, both sweet and savoury. Please share if you have any more recipe suggestions!

~ Skin food ~

Orange blossom, or neroli, water makes the most delicious facial toner. Delicate and pure it is suitable for sensitive skin, and never fails to brighten the mood as well as the complexion. It is refreshing and moisturising with the most beautiful scent. Orange blossom has regenerative properties, reducing wrinkles, boosting elasticity, and promoting rapid healing of small wounds or blemishes. It is anti-bacterial and anti-inflammatory, soothing the skin and controlling oil production from the pores. 

How to use it...

... as a mist to be spritzed onto freshly cleansed skin, body and face
... splashed into a hot bath
... mix it into your daily face moisturiser
... add it to your face masks
... dilute with water and rinse through your hair for an instant hit of warm sunny fragrence

And so I draw my love note to a close, although I would go on extolling the virtures of orange blossom forever. I hope I have done enough to convince you of its majesty and you offer it pride of place in the kitchen and bathroom this early spring.

May the humble orange blossom serve as a reminder of the power of simple ritual to uplift, refresh and nourish.

x x