Say It Sweetly With Chocolate and Herbs

A heart-shaped box of heavenly chocolates. The blush of fragrance from a bundle of fresh flowers and herbs. A sentimental suggestion from a secret admirer. Which of Cupid's arrows will you select to woo and win your special someone this Valentine's Day?

Our advice: Don't choose. You needn't take chances when love is at stake - nor should you have to when the best of these gifts can be bestowed in a single romantic gesture. Serve just one of the following desserts, and your beloved will surely swoon. Along with chocolate, each is infused with the intoxicating bouquet of a signature herb, hand-picked to deliver a specific message of love to your sweetheart.  But before you dish up any one of these delights, here's a brief lesson in herbal language to help you best express your intentions.

Herbal communication of some form has been around for millennia. Egyptian hieroglyphics dating back to 3000 BC abound with herbal symbols, and medieval brides and grooms made a habit of carrying or crowning themselves with herbs, most notably rosemary, to symbolize love and remembrance. However, it was Victorian ladies and gentlemen who, in the early nineteenth century, elevated this mode of speaking to a high art.
???Since overt expressions of ardor were considered improper in Victorian culture, floral language, or florigraphy, became a popular way of sharing passionate thoughts more discreetly. Suitors often sent tussie-mussies, artfully arranged bouquets of herbs and flowers, in lieu of more direct poems or letters. Each and every floral element was carefully selected so, when bundled together, the posy would carry just the right connotations.

Some herbs were ascribed a single word meaning, such as 'preference' for rose geranium. Others translated into fully-formed sentences like lemon thyme ('My time with you is pleasure') or chives ('Why do you weep?'). Still others had several interpretations, ranging from quite similar to extremely different.  Parsley, for instance, could indicate festivity, joy, victory or even useful knowledge depending on the circumstance. As you can imagine, these nuances in the lexicon often made it challenging to accurately "read" a bouquet. To avoid misconstruing messages - or offending someone whose attentions were actually sought - the well-bred Victorian relied on detailed floral dictionaries that catalogued thousands of plant definitions. Finishing schools also placed great emphasis on florigraphy, frequently requiring hours of dedicated dictionary study.

Fortunately, 21st century courtship can convey all the romance of Victorian herbal language without any of its
complexity. We've distilled one 200-page dictionary into a short list of commonly available herbs and meanings. Most of our desserts rely on a straightforward infusion technique that requires steeping herbs in cream or milk, and tending to just a few other details. And whether your relationship is just budding or fully blossomed, we have the perfectly scripted recipe to send to your significant other.

Got someone new? Try Cocoa-Mint Sandwich Cookies or White Chocolate-Rose Geranium Ice Cream for a subtle hint of friendliness or preference. If you've dated a while and want to move matters forward, make a statement of serious intentions with our basil-infused berry parfait. Or, if you're ready for lasting commitment, choose either the Milk Chocolate-Lavender Panna Cotta or Chocolate-Rosemary Torte to deliciously declare your loyalty.