lilac season — in the kitchen

I spent unfortunate number of my gardening years dismissing the idea of planting flowers.

There were some exceptions: Calendula, rose, lavender — because those are all medicinal, too.

But flowers just for pretty? What gardener has enough room for that?

As you know, eventually I came around. I realized that joy was its own medicine, and justified some plants that had no other apparent “productive“ value.

Lilac has been one of my most beloved flowers since very early childhood. But they bloom over such a short period, take up a fair bit of space and, I thought, did nothing but be pretty for a few weeks each year.

Oh, silly me.

Turns out, lilac is a medicine both in traditional and modern use. It’s used to help issues with the lungs, heart, digestive tract, kidneys, eyes and more.

When scientists look at its pharmacology, lilac components protect the liver, fight inflammation, protect the heart, support the immune system and have anti-microbial, antioxidants, antiviral and antitumor activity. [PMID: 33049343]

The flowers are also edible, and of course I love eating flowers. And then a friend posted on Facebook about making lilac honey.

That sounded like an easy and excellent idea, so I made some, too.

I gathered bunches of lilacs from my backyard bush, put most of them in vases to bring joy into the house, and separated off the flowers from the short stems to stir into honey. That’s it. Easy peasy.

Definitely taste your flowers first (and obviously make sure they’re coming from unsprayed shrubs.) The first batch of flowers I added were delicious and sweet. The second batch were more bitter — maybe because they came from a different variety, or maybe because it was later in the season. Tasting first will help you avoid disappointment.

Honey is a natural preservative, but adding fresh flowers does introduce water, making your products more prone to mold. This particular batch got pretty watery, so I’m keeping it in the fridge to maximize its longevity.

And this is truly joyous medicine.

For as long as it lasts, I will now have the fragrance of lilac mingled with the sweetness of honey – and the joy of both.

So what’s your take on lilac? Do you love it? Do you eat it? Have you ever made it into honey? Let me know!