Aphrodisiacs–those mysterious love potions alleged to enhance allure, arouse passions, and guarantee romance–take their name from Aphrodite, the Greek goddess of Love and Beauty, known to the Romans as Venus. Throughout history, across cultures, and around the globe, food and drink has played a central role in tipping Cupid’s scales to woo a lover. But you no longer need to go down to 34th and Vine to find Madame Ruth (that Gypsy with the gold-capped tooth) for a little bottle of Love Potion #9 (or in this case, #10). Sous vide cooking makes it the essence of simplicity to stir up a batch of your favorite Love Potion and we promise it won’t smell like turpentine or look like India ink. There’s something here for every need — libations, entrees, side dishes, and sweet treats. Pick one or enjoy all ten!
It was Aphrodite, or so the story goes, who planted the first pomegranate tree. Thus, perhaps, is how the fruit itself, filled with hundreds of glistening red arils, became associated with fertility and abundance and used as a romantic symbol in sonnets and literature for centuries. One modern study appears to suggest that drinking pomegranate juice daily may lower the stress hormone, cortisol, and thereby increase that hormone of passion, testosterone, in both men and women. Now that, if true, is a love potion!
Apart from powdered rhino horn, which in the first place is endangered and in the second something we don’t think would be very delicious to eat, oysters may be the most universally touted aphrodisiac food going. And maybe there are some good reasons. Rich in zinc said to regulate sex hormones, phosphorous and iodine for stamina, selenium to increase potency and sex drive, and dopamine to spark arousal and heighten libido, they’re a grand slam in the realm of romance. And besides, firm, fresh oysters are just downright delicious.
The fig is a fruit with a foot in both camps: sensual fertility and modesty. So the tree that bore the leaf that covered the nakedness of Adam and Eve (and was added to countless Greek and Roman statues in the intervening centuries) likewise bears a fruit that when split looks uncommonly fertile, like an ovary, filled with seeds enveloped by glorious pink flesh. Cleopatra adored them, so history recounts, and we’d hazard a guess that she fed more than one to her famous lovers or they, her.
For centuries, cultures all over the globe have lauded the aphrodisiac qualities of asparagus. The Greeks spoke of it in love poetry and the Kama Sutra advised consuming it as a paste. It is said French couples once dined on three meals of asparagus the day before their wedding in hopes of increasing their libido for the big night ahead. Aside from its somewhat erotic shape, asparagus is also packed with calcium and potassium, which may provide a dose of extra muscular vigor and Vitamin E to make give the skin a youthful glow.
Don’t love ‘em? You might want to reconsider. Goddess of Love, Aphrodite, supposedly ate them to enhance her beauty and sex appeal. Maybe their sensual, deep red color stained her lips, making them more kissable, but whatever the reason, the Ancients believed that beets and their juice promoted amorous feelings, and in keeping with that philosophy, the Romans bedecked the walls of brothels in the seaside resort of Pompeii with images of the tasty roots. Beyond color, they do contain some healthful compounds: tryptophan and betaine that promote feelings of relaxation and calm and boron, a trace mineral that may increase the level of sex hormones.
Romantics of the past believed the fragrant scent of almonds aroused passion in women and a whiff of good almond extract could make you a believer. The Romans, history tells us, showered newlyweds with almonds to symbolize their wish of fertility for the couple. And they do contain hefty amounts of some very good things—vitamin E, magnesium, and fiber to name three—that could to improve your general health and sense of well being and that can’t be bad for amore! You could drizzle a little honey on it for a twof’er! (see #7 below)
The very name says it all—honey–a term of endearment and the traditional start of a marriage, the ‘honeymoon’. Folk lore tells us it’s the bee’s knees for ensuring a sweet relationship. The ancient physician, Hippocrates, prescribed it for sexual vigor and not without some merit, as it contains boron, which may help regulate sexual hormone levels. The French, on the other hand, once believed the sting on the honeybee was like a shot of pure aphrodisiac. We’d prefer the sticky sweet stuff to the sting, ourselves.
With their charming heart shape and ruby red color, the strawberry is a shoe-in for promoting love. What became a symbol of Venus, Roman goddess of was once a forbidden fruit in ancient Greece, which, of course, made them desirable and promoted the belief that they held magical powers. Magic, maybe not so much, but definitely full of anti-inflammatory compounds, such as antioxidants and phytochemicals that could help to reduce joint inflammation. Good news for lovers planning a little splendor in the grass!
No surprise that chocolate is the food of love and the Love Potion #9 on our list. It’s utterly sensual, from its taste to its aroma to its deep, dark color. The Aztecs worshiped it as divine, believing the god, Quetzalcoatl, brought the first cacao tree to them as a gift from paradise. Only the wealthy and powerful could (legally) consume it. They bought and sold it and drank it ceremonially (bitter and straight) for wisdom and prowess. Whether you’re talking 1520 or 2015, wealth and power are aphrodisiacs! Nowadays, we prefer to sweeten our chocolate, but however you choose to enjoy it, there’s more to it than meets the taste buds! Consuming dark chocolate may not only be heart healthy, but has also been shown to raise the feel-good brain chemical, dopamine, which heightens the sensation of pleasure, just like being in love!
#10 Red Hot Chili Peppers
Not the band, but the capsaicin-containing fiery fruit is said to possess aphrodisiac powers dating as far back as the Aztec empire (see #9 above!) who added ground red chili to the bitter chocolate that Montezuma purportedly drank to make his ‘tongue dance’ and his ‘pulse quicken’. The known physiological effects of chilis indeed do make the heart race, the lips swell, the face flush, and give us an endorphin rush. Sounds a lot like love! Try spicing up your love’s life with Spicy Pickled Pineapple (the flavorful condiment for meat, fish, or fowl, pictured) or go straight for the hard stuff with a sous vide infused Habanero Margarita!