Saturday, 12 November 2011

Pomanders, perfume and pong

A great way to get children and grown-ups to imagine themselves at home in a Tudor hall or Victorian drawing room at the Geffrye Museum is to get them to sample the aroma of herbs and spices, beeswax and tallow candles, or the distinctive smell of a coal or wood fire. This usually starts a lively conversation about the amazing power of olfaction to evoke ideas and memories of different times and places.

To develop my children's olfactory skills at home, we played the game Guess the Smell. We took turns to collect things from around the house and hid them in foil-topped, fork-pricked pots. We sampled the mystery smells then drew or wrote down what we thought was in each pot before removing the foil. Today we had houmous, Marmite, soap, chocolate, strawberries, rosemary and coffee; there was some serious sniffing and thinking, and plenty of giggling and guessing.

When we were in Kynaston Gardens a few weeks ago we spotted an unusual fruit tree. The smell of its velvety citrus fruit took me straight back to a childhood memory of making pomanders from oranges. I thought this might make a lovely activity for Buddy and Daisy; to experience the wonderful perfume of citrus and cloves combined. So we took a few of the windfalls home with us and made the pomanders pictured above. Here's how we did it:

1. First we pierced the fruit skin with a fork and began to press cloves into the holes. Though both children's interest in this activity waned after about five minutes Daisy popped back to the making table a couple of times, adding a few cloves every visit.

2. When the fruit was entirely covered in cloves Daisy returned to help me thread a sparkly pipe cleaner through its core. I used a bamboo skewer to make a threading hole first.

3. Then we secured the pipe-cleaner with a pony bead to the underside of the fruit.

4. Next, we threaded five pony beads to the length of pipe-cleaner sticking out the top of the fruit.

5. Then we twisted and tucked the end of the pipe-cleaner into the pony beads making a hanging loop for the pomander.

6. Finally, we sprinkled over some fine glitter for extra sparkle and hung the pomanders from the radiator to dry cure.

Two weeks on, they are ready. They smell gorgeous, look very festive and evoke lovely memories of my childhood. And now the perfume of the pomanders will be part of Buddy and Daisy's smell-memory too.


  1. I love this idea! It might work well as a natural air freshener.
    The other day our house smelled lovely and then I realized my in laws had bought guavas, and it brought such a fresh, tropical fragrance to the house.

  2. Mmmmmmmm! Yum! I tried making these once but only managed one as it took so long to cover the fruit in cloves that I gave up! I love how you've pimped the traditional version with glitter. These used to be given as gifts by poor people to their bosses. But I think today any boss would be impressed if they received one, it's a great homemade gift.

  3. Glad you like them!

    You know, I've tried making them with full-sized oranges before - and they took such a long time. These are v small citrus fruit (actually I'm not sure what they are!)about the size of a kiwi fruit, and it only took us (mainly me) about 20 mins to cover the whole thing. x

  4. I love your blog! I can smell the pomanders now (I wish!) I hope you'll visit my blog: Kindergarten for Teachers and Parents.

  5. Did you ever figure out what those fruits were? We just found some of the same in Ravenscourt Park - they have a beautiful perfumed aroma!


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