present on all things Tuscan, from stationary to printed Florentine paper, to the soccer jerseys of the Fiorentina team, the “giglio” (bearded iris) is also used to make perfumed powder, soaps, eau de toilette etc. It was a historic, traditional source of perfume, and places like the famous pharmacy of Santa Maria Novella still use it today.
back in the time of “mezzadria”, or sharecropping, one of the few plants that Tuscan farmers could grow on their own rocky land and not have to share with the landowners, was this iris. Combined with the fact that it is quite hardy and easy to propagate, it was – and is – a beloved plant that is seen all over Tuscany, usually in the month of April.
Some Tuscans still remember helping their grandmothers (perfume and nasty work are always the woman’s realm) harvest, peel, dry and pound into a powder the roots or rhizomes of these flowers. i’ve been told it left fingers sore and bleeding…. i’ll sign off on that lovely note!