Lilacs are in full bloom right now, and if you’re lucky enough to have a few trees near your house, I’m sure you can smell their lovely fragrance. Did you know that lilac petals are edible? Lilac Syrup is made with fully-bloomed lilac petals and is a great way to infuse some of your favourite summer recipes with the lovely scent and a slightly citrus-like taste.
A few years ago, when we bought our house, we were quite surprised in the early summer to see that the back corner of our backyard had a nice row of pink and purple lilac trees. Little did I know that I would look forward to those beauties blooming every year, more so now that I have tasted this Lilac Syrup! You see, I have major seasonal allergies and flowers are just one of those things that triggers me.
Lilacs don’t have much of an effect on me though. Outdoors, I love the fresh smell. And, I will cut a few branches to bring inside for a table-top centerpiece. Within a few hours, the entire house smells like lilacs, and I love it! Here are two photos of my arrangements this year.
LILACS ARE EDIBLE
I’ve seen images on social media where food has been decorated with lilacs. It seems to be very common on muffins, loaves, and cookies. At first glance, I thought it was just for decoration. Then, when I learned that we had lilac trees of our own, I read more about them. That’s when I learned that they are edible.
In today’s post, I’m sharing my Lilac Syrup recipe with you. Just a week or so ago, I shared my Easy Simple Syrup recipe with you. These types of syrup are used to sweeten cocktails and other drinks. But, Lilac Syrup does that and more. It imparts sweetness, and a hint of citrus flavour. The flavour that you experience when tasting lilacs might differ from others. I get a little bit of citrus, while John.e just gets the fragrance.
Have you ever heard someone say, “This tastes like it smells.” That’s mostly the experience you will have with Lilac Syrup. That fresh, early summer fragrance, is captured in the syrup, and therefore, is imparted in whatever you use your syrup in – which, for the most part will be cocktails or summer refreshers.
HOW TO GATHER LILACS
If you are planning to consume lilacs, you will have to choose which side of the lilac debate you will want to support. There are some people who firmly believe that you have to wash them first. I do not share that belief. I have tried it and not only does it make the petals impossible to work with, the fragrance and essence of the petals are basically washed down the drain.
Here are the suggestions that I have followed. These are suggestions that I have read over the past two years from others who have prepared lilacs to eat. First, only use lilac petals from a tree that you know 100% has not been sprayed or treated with chemicals. Secondly, pick petals from trees that are not close to busy streets or highways. Those petals will be dirty with gas and diesel residue.
If you can find those, then do not wash the petals. You will want to cut away a few branches from the tree using pruning shears. Don’t break the branches with your hands or saw at them with a knife. This will damage the tree and you will want the tree to stay healthy for years to come. Oh, it’s also best to harvest the lilacs in the morning before it gets too hot. The petals have more moisture content in the mornings.
SEPARATING THE PETALS FROM THE STEMS
So, I know that lilacs look gorgeous spilling out of large vases. And, I know that the little bottle of Lilac Syrup looks inviting and intriguing. But, that’s the reward, people. Once you have located your lilacs, and cut away a few branches, comes the hard part. Removing the petals from the stems is certainly not hard work, but it’s tedious! This is how I do it.
Once I have cut the branches, I like to hold each branch upside down and firmly shake it. This will get rid of any blooms that are past their prime, and will get rid of some of the dead or dried up petals. Lilacs also provide housing and nourishment for bumblebees and some not so cute and fuzzy insects. Shaking the branches will get rid of those unsightly critters.
Next, find a nice shady spot on your back deck. Fetch a cold drink and get ready to harvest. Working with one bunch of lilacs at at time, hold the top of the petal and pull. The purplish-pink petal should release from the stem. The idea is to leave behind all traces of green. If you get a few bits of green, it won’t do any harm. But, too much will throw off the taste of your syrup.
This process is long and labourious. To make this syrup, you will need two cups of packed lilac petals. That doesn’t seem like much, but it takes some time. You should learn from my mistakes too, because I did not sit in the shade. I ended up getting a sunburn!
When is all is said and done, the Lilac Syrup is beautifully fragrant and sweet. You can use it in just about any cocktail that needs sweetening. It can be drizzled over ice cream. You can add a generous amount to a glass of sparkling water, or even to a large pitcher of lemonade. It’s also very nice in a cup of hot tea. Here’s how to make it!
- 1 cup water
- 1 cup sugar
- 2 cups lightly packed lilac petals (see post for details)
- 10-12 blueberries, optional
- Add the water and sugar to a sauce pan and bring to a boil over high heat.
- Once boiled, stir in the lilac petals.
- Add the blueberries if using. The blueberries are added for colour. Without them, the syrup will be a pale yellow. Blackberries can be used as well. If you don't have any berries, you could use a drop of food colouring, or let the syrup have a natural colour.
- Stir the berries into the mixture.
- Turn off the heat and cover the sauce pan with a lid.
- Allow the mixture to steep for 4 hours.
- Drain the mixture through clean cheesecloth and store in food-safe bottles.
- Keep refrigerated. Will store safely for two weeks.