Wildflower season is almost here, and that means two things: colorful blooms and foragable wild edibles will be blooming soon. Honeysuckle, which can be found throughout the U.S., is a fragrant wildflower whose long, trumpet-like flowers produce a sweet nectar. While the stems and berries are mildly toxic, the nectar of the plant is edible and a versatile ingredient in a variety of recipes. Depending on the species and location, honeysuckle can be harvested throughout the spring and into early summer. Gather the flowers on a dayhike (be sure to follow sustainable harvesting practices), then prepare the following banquet in your home kitchen.
Note: If you’re allergic to tree pollen, these recipes aren’t for you.
Preserve the sweet taste of honeysuckle with this recipe from Texas Homesteader.
Begin by harvesting honeysuckle blossoms in an area free of pesticides. You’ll need about two cups worth of blossoms for this recipe, which yields 6 half-pint jars (don’t take more than you need). Store them in a breathable cloth bag—not plastic—to keep the plants from wilting.
At home, cut off the small green bulb from the base of each bloom to prepare it for cooking.
Create a honeysuckle infusion: Bring 2 cups of water to a boil, then turn the heat off. Add the honeysuckle blossoms, then stir and cover. Allow the blooms to steep for 45 minutes, stirring every 15 minutes. Cool and refrigerate the infusion overnight.
The next day, strain the flowers from the liquid. Pour 2 cups of the infusion into a large saucepan (you can add a bit of water to make up the 2 cups if the volume boiled down). Add ¼ cup of lemon juice and 4 cups of sugar to the saucepan and turn the heat to medium high, stirring constantly. Bring the mixture to a boil. Add 3 ounces of liquid pectin and boil for two minutes. Reduce the heat if necessary to avoid boiling over (the mixture will rise quite a bit, so use a large saucepan). After two minutes, remove from heat and can. Store open jars in the refrigerator.
Honeysuckle and Lemon Pound Cake
Many recipes involving honeysuckle start off with a simple syrup mixture. To make the honeysuckle simple syrup, combine 1 cup of boiling water and 1 cup of granulated sugar and stir until completely dissolved. Add 1 ½ to 2 cups of honeysuckle blossoms and half of a lemon (zested and sliced into thin slivers; include the zest as well). Allow the syrup to steep until the mixture reaches room temperature. Once cooled, strain and refrigerate the syrup until use.
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees and butter and flour a 9-by-5-inch loaf pan. Create a batter like this one from For the Love of the South, mixing 2 tablespoons of honeysuckle simple syrup with buttermilk or yogurt, then adding to dry ingredients pouring into your loaf pan. Be sure to tap the pan on the countertop a few times to release any bubbles in the batter. Bake 45 minutes to an hour, until the cake tester comes out clean. Once it’s finished baking, let cool for 10 minutes in the pan and then invert onto a cooling rack with a tray underneath. Poke holes in the cake with a toothpick and brush ⅓ cup of honeysuckle simple syrup over the cake; allow to cool completely.
Start off by making honeysuckle water: Place 2 cups of honeysuckle blooms in a large bowl; pour cold water over the flowers and stir a few times to mix. Allow the flowers to steep for at least 24 hours; you can let them stand up to a few days for a more intense flavor.
While the honeysuckle water is steeping, make a honeysuckle simple syrup using the recipe above.
Using an ice cream maker, add in the honeysuckle water and cooled simple syrup to a sorbet base and process according to the manufacturer’s instructions. Serve or freeze immediately.
If you don’t have an ice cream maker, you can make a granita by combining the honeysuckle water and simple syrup in a 9-by-12-by-2-inch glass baking dish. Place the dish on a flat surface in the freezer and freeze for two hours. Then scrape the mixture with the tines of a fork before returning to the freezer. Repeat this process three more times (once every two hours), for a total of 8 hours.