The 11 Most Surprising—and Tasty—Aphrodisiacs
If you want to get lucky on Valentine’s Day, you could do worse than mix up a love potion. Humans have been concocting such tonics since time immemorial, and we still roam the earth, fruitfully multiplying. We must be doing something right.
Problem is, though there’s a long and colorful array of ancient aphrodisiacs, not all of them are easy to come by—or appetizing. Rhinoceros horn, goat testicles boiled in milk, the white bark of the Arjuna tree, Spanish fly, skink flesh: These are not delicacies to be procured from your local grocer. And they would probably have your date urgently excusing him- or herself.
Lucky for you, history offers some delicious options, too. Over the centuries, cultures across the globe have heralded more or less all of our edible riches as aphrodisiacs. Often, the science was pretty thin; if a food resembled any aspect of the sex organs, it was held up as an agent of passion. For instance, the potato, arguably the least sexy vegetable on record, once whipped Europe into a lustful froth, but only because it looked like a testicle, and it was a new import from the Americas to boot. (By all means, though, if spuds put you in the mood, far be it for us to stand in your way.)
That said, one must be adventurous. Here are 11 tasty, time-honored, and wholly reasonable ingredients to boost your virility or fertility.
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Artichokes: In the 16th century, European women were forbidden from eating artichokes, so vehemently were they believed to spur lust. Greek myth suggests their very creation is wrapped up in concupiscence: when Zeus was visiting his bro Poseidon, he spied a lovely lass, Cynara, whom he scooped up and took to Olympus for godly trysts whenever his wife was away. But when Cynara grew homesick and tried to escape to the world of mortals, Zeus, incensed, transformed her into an artichoke. But hey, her loss is your gain.
Pine Nuts: The Roman poet Ovid, in his Ars Amatoria—that’s “the Art of Love,” if your Latin isn’t quite serviceable—recommends consuming “seeds from the cones of sharp-needled pines” to whet one’s appetite for seduction. If you trust in tradition, pine nuts have a long and reliable lineage—Ovid wrote that line in the year 2.
Truffles: When Louis XV found himself flagging in the bedroom, Madame de Pompadour fed him truffles to restore his virility. And she was no stranger to their effects herself; according to Memoirs of Louis XV, “She ate truffles and celery soup: finding her in a very heated state, I one day remonstrated with her about her diet, to which she paid no attention.”
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Arugula: In ancient Rome and Greece, arugula was believed to be such a potent aphrodisiac that precautionary measures had to be taken. Ever wonder how lettuce came to be the basic ingredient of salads? It was to prevent excessive libido at the table. In Food in the Ancient World from A to Z, the historian Andrew Dalby writes that “at ordinary meals lettuce was customarily served with rocket, which was believed to neutralize it.” Of course, on Valentine’s Day, neutralization is exactly what you don’t desire. Prepare a salad with plenty of arugula and hold the watercress.