Potpourri is used inside the home to give the air a pleasant smell. The word "potpourri" comes into English from the French word "pot-pourri." The French term has two connotations. It is the French name for a Spanish stew with a wide variety of ingredients called "olla podrida," specialty of the town of Burgos. The word was taken and copied by the French military during the Napoleonic occupation of Burgos. Literally, however, the word "pot" in French has the same meaning as it does in Spanish and English, while the word "pourri" means rotten. In English, "potpourri" is often used to refer to any collection of miscellaneous or diverse items.
In early 17th Century France fresh herbs and flowers were gathered—starting in spring and continuing throughout the summer. The herbs were left for a day or two to become limp, then layered with coarse sea salt. The aging mixture was stirred occasionally as layers were added to it. Often the mixture would ferment or even mold as the summer went by. In fall, spices would be added to the unsightly grey mix until a pleasant fragrance was achieved, then scent preserving fixatives were added. The finished potpourri was set out in special pots with perforated lids to perfume rooms. Modern homes avoid having pots of moldly substances laying about, and botanical potpourri can be acquired from a variety of retail establishments and online directly from countryside herb farms.
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