As any Iowan can attest, Midwestern winters are long and bleak. After the merriness of Christmas subsides and the glitter of New Year’s fades, we are left with a damp gray-brown slog that can extend all the way until April. Add to that the emotional slog of an election year and it becomes doubly important to find an enjoyable way to fill the time. It’s the perfect season to stay in, eat and fuck. In fact, you might not even notice that you’ve gone a week without seeing the sun.
Aphrodisiac foods combine the sensual pleasures of eating and sex. Deriving their name from Aphrodite, the Greek goddess of love and pleasure, aphrodisiacs are thought to improve sexual performance or enhance sexual pleasure. They sometimes contain nutrients that contribute to sexual health, although it’s up for debate whether an average serving consumed right before sex has any effect. If you’re ready to test their effectiveness yourself, here’s a list of foods to try and tips on what to do with them once you get home.
One of the best-known aphrodisiacs, and apparently a favorite of Casanova’s, oysters probably get their reputation from their resemblance to female genitalia and the slightly sloppy, suggestive process of eating them. They contain zinc, which boosts testosterone, and dopamine, which stimulates arousal. Try eating them the traditional way: raw on the half shell.
This one dates back to ancient Greece, with Hippocrates recommending honey to increase sexual vigor. It contains boron which regulates hormone level and nitric oxide which increases blood flow during arousal. Try eating honeycomb with fruit or drizzling it directly onto your partner if you want to keep things efficient. As a bonus, raw local honey may help boost your immune system.
This is another food with roots in Greek mythology, as the sweet red fruits are said to originate from the tears Aphrodite cried when her lover Adonis died. They contain vitamin C, which aids in the production of sex hormones. They’re not in season, so try dipping them in chocolate (and maybe save some of that melted chocolate for later) or using them to top off angel food cake.
There is legitimate science to support the aphrodisiac effect of chilies. The capsaicin found in the ribs of the fruit stimulates the nerve endings in the tongue and increases the release of endorphins, which is likely to make you feel aroused. Any chili ranging from mild to hot will do. Salsa is always a reliable choice, or you could step outside the box and smear pepper jelly on salmon (another aphrodisiac!).
As if we didn’t already have enough reasons to love avocados, they contain vitamin B9, which can increase testosterone production. And the Aztec word for avocado, ahuácatl, also translates to “testicle.” Conveniently, guacamole can be eaten on chips, tacos or another person.
Nicknamed the love apple, pomegranates are sometimes portrayed as the forbidden fruit Adam and Eve consumed in the Garden of Eden, and have long been associated with fertility. Try sprinkling the seeds over a salad or adding the juice to sparkling wine to make a cocktail.
While the efficacy of aphrodisiacs isn’t settled science, their reputation as sexual aids has persisted over centuries. This list represents only a fraction of the foods said to have libido boosting properties; a little internet research will turn up dozens of additional options. Grab a fork and a partner and start experimenting! You might just be able to stay busy — and warm — all winter.
Tiffani Green lives in Cedar Rapids with three cats, two dogs and a teenager who is taller than her. She loves botanical gardens and Victorian novels and she expresses love with meals and light housekeeping. This article was originally published in Little Village issue 278.