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  • Writer's pictureClyve Rose

Lemonade & Lavender

Continuing on with my floral theme, I’ve been spending more time than usual in my little garden. It’s Autumn here (Fall, for the Americans), and while few Australian plants lose their leaves in the colourful display I used to love when I lived in England, harvest time is always beautiful in my garden. Here’s some of my homemade for you:


Lemons:

We recently received so much rain, parts of my state flooded (again) – but one man’s flood in another’s bounty. My backyard tree has never hung so heavy in the boughs with fruit. Lemons have likely been used for as long as they’ve been around – because the juice itself has medicinal properties.


We know now about vitamin C and it role in preventing poor health, but back then some people likely simply liked a slice in their tea. Homemade lemonade was likely a specialised drink, and each lemon-bearing household would have its own recipe. The 1700-1800s saw the rise of the British Empire, which began with Queen Elizabeth I, and arguably achieved its zenith under Queen Victoria. This means that the navy was active and visibly attending to the empire during the Georgian, or Regency, period.

Two of Austen’s novels, Persuasion and Mansfield Park, showcase this prominently, especially the latter where the heroine’s brother is attempting to advance himself in the ranks, and her earliest suitor is an admiral’s wayward nephew who makes this possible.

This was the era when British naval personnel were known as ‘limeys’ because they were commanded to swallow a cup of lemon or lime juice a day to keep scurvy at bay – so while vitamin-rich diets may not have been prioritised among the general populace, defending the realm meant they’d do what worked – and citrus definitely works. Lemons also aid in reducing swelling, as well as preventing kidney stones and the peel is known to have treatment properties for some chronic conditions.


The magic of citrus extends to more than tea and scurvy. There’s also flavouring:

  • Liqueurs

  • Ice creams

  • Cordials

  • Scones

  • Cakes – especially lemon sponge

  • Biscuits

  • Sweets

  • Cosmetics

  • Soaps

…and of course, homemade lemonade.


I grew up with a lemonade and rosewater recipe, but here’s one straight from the Regency era – remembering they had nothing to keep it cool but ice, snow, or freezing cold river water (there’s a reason so many drinks in the past were fermented).


Regency Lemonade:

Ingredients:

  • 1 ounce (30g) lemon juice

  • 2 ounces (60g) sparkling water

  • 2 ounces (60g) orgeat

  • Lemon wheel for garnish


Directions:

  1. Combine lemon juice and orgeat in a highball glass.

  2. Top with still water and stir. Use sparkling water to modernise this if you wish.

  3. Garnish with lemon wheel.


It was rare to purchase items like candles and soaps in the Regency era. There wasn’t much mass production, so parfumiers, chocolatier, even bakers, florists and candle makers, were specialists who only really worked up special orders for the wealthiest of patrons. The heroine of my Soho Club mysteries (watch this space – they’ll be back soon), distils oils and essences from a range of flowers and herbs to create unique parfums. Her clients are uniformly aristocratic.

Soaps and candles were more usually homemade, and scented with what grew locally, so the lavender wax candles in Always a Princess were made by the hero's mother (granted, she was a duchess). Later on, his Romany wife’s family create spruce-scented wax to celebrate a Christmas wedding in A Holiday Season at Clifton Hall.


Lavender:

Lavender is a scent and energy almost synonymous with historical eras. As a plant with a plethora of medicinal properties, it’s been a part of English home remedies for several centuries, and the households of the Regency era were no different.

Most known for its soothing properties, dried lavender cloth sachets were a popular gift to place in a newborn’s cradle. Drying flowers was a past time for ladies in general, and these scented petals were always put to good use. The little sachets could be placed among linen, including undergarments, even inside one’s corsetry. Hair powder was also often scented with dried and powdered lavender.

Remembering that bathing wasn’t a dfaily occurrence for many Georgians (although the Regent himself was a fan of baths and encouraged the practise). Baths were a luxury household item, usually made of copper. Indoor plumbing didn’t really exist, so to bathe required a large tub, and a team or servants to carry jug after jug from the kitchen to the ante room. This process may be overseen by butlers or valets – so, not common in most Regency households without a large-ish underclass.

A bath could be scented with dried lavender petals, or liquid distilled from the plant itself (what we’d call essential oils today). The flower was also used to flavour:

  • Ice cream

  • Scones

  • Tea (I can personally recommend this as a bedtime drink)

  • Biscuits

  • Soap


Lavender tea:

Boil 120 g (8 oz.) of water.

Place 4 tsp. of fresh lavender buds into a tea ball or sachet.

Place the tea ball and water into a teacup.

Let steep for 10 minutes.


Two scents that epitomise the past grow in my little garden. I like to take a moment every Autumn to inhale the scents of this season and reap my bounty.


Ending with a lovely image of Nicola Coghlan, the actress who plays Penelope Featherington in Netflix's Bridgerton - because I think she's gorgeous.


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