Some readers know that two years ago I started my journey with studying herbalism (more reasons why I’m doing that on that post) but I decided last month that, given the current world situation, now may be a better time than ever to go past “beginner” and take my studies to the next level with an intermediate course of study.
I guess joke’s on me a little bit– hoping I’d get to “enjoy” the lock-down life because despite the pandemic I have been absolutely busy with normal things and really have to try hard (between work, cooking, garden, the necessary relaxation necessary to enjoy life) to study three subjects again… but I think there’s almost always time if you make it. That means, perhaps, waking up earlier than usual (or later, if you’re a night owl) or cutting back on social media usage to find more intentional study time.
But back to plants — there will probably be more herbal content from me over the next year at this rate as I’ll be deeper in the thick of it all with my studies. To start that all off, I wanted to share with you a super-easy recipe to make your own botanical syrup using a common flower, like lilac (Latin: Syringa vulgaris, Czech: Šeřík Obecný). This beautiful shrub is found in many a garden and this month it happens to be in its glorious and beautifully-smelling bloom! A friend of mine has a huge garden and is always so generous in sharing with me the fruits (sometimes, quite literally) that it has to offer. This time, she gave me a beautiful dark purple lilac birthday bouquet, and the wheels started turning — time to make syrup!
Lilac is edible — you can even use its blooms to decorate cakes, cookies or flavor anything else, really. Not only that but there are some health benefits as well. such as astringent uses for facial care (lilac water used as a toner and healing spritz).
I managed to harness it’s delicate botanical flavor in this syrup, a recipe of which is very easy to remember and that you could use for other edible flower syrups as well for flavoring lemonades, cocktails, as a maple syrup or honey substitute or anything else that could use a bit of liquid floral sweetness. It also makes a nice gift!
Recipe: Lilac Simple Syrup
- 1/2 cup water
- 1/2 cup sugar (I used brown raw cane sugar)
- 1/2 cup (minimum) lilac blooms – You can use a bit more if you have more for a stronger flavor.
- 2-3 dark berries (fresh or frozen) for color – optional
- Pick off lilac blooms from their branches and stems, being very careful to shake out any insects that are hiding inside (I find insects love to hang out in there).
- In a small saucepan, combine the sugar, flowers and water and bring it to boil, then quickly reduce to a simmer. Simmer on low at least 10-15 minutes. The longer you simmer, the tastier the syrup will be, but be careful – syrup will thicken the longer it’s on the heat. Optional: for a color closer to lilacs (instead of a “sugar color”), you can use whatever dark blue berries you have on hand, like blueberries, blackberries or black currants.
- Taste a little – when it meets muster, pour the syrup through a small strainer into another container. Squeeze the blooms with the back of a spoon to get as much of the syrup and flavor out as you can, then compost the flowers when finished.
- Syrup will keep for about one month stored in a glass bottle in the fridge.
My favorite way to enjoy floral syrups is making a lemonade of freshly squeezed lemon juice, a few leaves of garden herbs (like mint or basil) and a syrup, topped with sparkling mineral water three-quarters of the way up the glass, and filling the rest with ice cubes. Hope you enjoy it.