When I think of the holiday season, there are certain scents that immediately come to mind. One is the delightful fragrance of a freshly cut Christmas tree gently permeating the air. Another fond memory is the smell of warm apple pie and pumpkin bread filling my grandma’s kitchen. I’m starting to smile just thinking about it.
Smells are often associated with memory. If you toss in an emotional connection, then the ability to recapture these wonderful events in our mind’s eye is compounded. But, who has time these days to make homemade pies, breads, cookies and the like? We are all so busy.
I came across an online article from Garden Therapy about simmering spices. I immediately thought that this was a grand idea! My home can be filled with the smells of the holiday season without spending three days in the kitchen.
On the Garden Therapy website, they suggest simmering your spices on the stove top or in a crock pot. They also share that fresh or dry ingredients can be used. There are an endless number of combinations, so here are a few from their website: gardentherapy.ca/simmering-spices
The first one is called “It’s Like Snowflakes Melting in Your Nose” and they describe it as a blend that is “cool, crisp, and fresh, like a woodland stroll in a winter wonderland.” My goodness, that sounds lovely. It includes star anise, evergreen leaves, peppermint, sage and eucalyptus.
“Sleepy Time” incorporates relaxing scents, such as lavender, chamomile, and rose. While “Pumpkin Spice” has pumpkin skins, allspice, vanilla, cinnamon, ginger and cloves.
There’s even a recipe for “Cold Virus Relief.” This one uses lavender, chamomile, lemon and eucalyptus. For “It’s Beginning to Smell a Lot Like Christmas,” combine pine leaves, bay leaves, cloves, rosemary, cinnamon and dried orange peel.
I have personally put cinnamon and clove on the stove, but with these great ideas I am going to get a little more creative. Let’s all remember to monitor those simmering spices. We don’t want to go off and forget about them in the midst of all the hustle and bustle of the season.
Lastly, if you are wondering why smells are strongly associated with memory, there is a biological reason behind it. Olfactory memories are very powerful because of where the olfactory nerve is located in the brain. It is close to the amygdala — the area responsible for emotions. It is also near the hippocampus — an area associated with memory. To read more: sites.psu.edu/siowfa14/2014/10/23/why-do-smells-retain-memories
Kelley Rawlsky has an M.S. in horticulture and is the director of Bringing People and Plants Together, an organization dedicated to bringing horticulture education and therapy to the community. For more information: PeopleAndPlantsTogether @gmail.com or follow us on Facebook.