When I was young, we had a huge lilac bush in the backyard, and nothing said “springtime” to me more than the heady scent of lilac drifting into newly opened windows. Here in the Hudson Valley, “spring” is all about forsythia, the yellow flowering shrub that seems to burst into color overnight, and nearly as quickly, loses its blooms and sprouts the first pale green leaves of the season.
While researching recipes for this month’s Can Jam, the focus ingredient for which is herbs (including flowers), I came across this recipe for Lavender Syrup in The Glass Pantry. And while I do have dried lavender in the pantry, it got me to thinking: surely there must be something blooming now that would make a nice floral syrup? One glance out my front door and I could hardly avoid the huge, blooming yellow forsythia bush that overhangs our stairway. “But are forsythia blooms edible?” she asks, not wanting to inadvertently poison herself, her husband or her devoted readers. Neither of my foraging guides (Wildman Steve Brill’s and The Peterson Guide) mention forsythia, but some Googling led me to a few sites that suggest the blooms are edible and sometimes used in Spring salads. Apparently the fruit of the forsythia is important in traditional Chinese herbal medicine and is purported to treat various types of infections or inflammatory conditions. Furthermore, forsythia is not on the lists of poisonous plants or flowers that I consulted, so I conclude that it is safe to eat.
The syrup could not be easier; it is essentially a simple syrup (1:1 ratio of sugar & water) steeped overnight in fresh blooms. Then filter and store. Dress it up in some pretty bottles and you have a unique, and thrifty, gift. The syrup itself is lovely, a beautiful pale gold color with a fresh, subtle, floral flavor of forsythia; springy, bright, it tastes like forsythia smells. We made forsythitinis with some ice cold vodka and about two tablespoons of syrup; I also made a virgin-tini with just soda water & syrup which was delicious. In addition to cocktails, I can see using this to sweeten tea, over pancakes, or stirred into yogurt; with a store-bought pound cake, some forsythia syrup & a sprinkling of yellow blooms, you could turn a ho-hum dessert into a showpiece.
Adapted from Lavender Syrup in The Glass Pantry by Georgeanne Brennan
- 3 cups filtered water
- 3 cups granulated sugar (I used white sugar for this, to preserve the color of the flowers)
- 3 cups, lightly packed, forsythia flowers
- Add the water and sugar to a medium saucepan. Bring to a boil over high heat, stirring constantly until the sugar dissolves. Boil for 1 minute, then remove from heat.
- Rinse the forsythia flowers under cool water; add to the syrup, stir to coat, cover and allow to steep overnight.
- In the morning, strain the syrup through a very fine sieve lined with several layers of damp cheesecloth. Store in pretty bottles or jars (sterilize for maximum storage time) and refrigerate for up to 3 months.
Yields about 3 cups.
- A word to the wise: I’ve been unable to find any definitive source that says forsythia blooms are safe to eat. I can say that I’ve eaten the syrup in many concotions, and fed it to many other people, for nearly a year now without ill effects; but proceed at your own risk. I will continue to search for any reputable information and will update here if I find something.
- The original recipe called for a thinner syrup; 4 cups of water to 2 cups of sugar, and also either 1/2 cup fresh lavendar flowers or 2 tbsp dried. I increased the amount of flowers as forsythia has a much more subtle scent (and presumably, flavor) and decreased the water to make a simple syrup consistency.
- This should work with any edible flower; experiment with rose petals, nasturtiums, wisteria, dandelions, chysthanthemum. Make sure to check a reputable source to ensure that your flower is edible; see the NC State listing of edible flowers (which does not list forsythia) and poisonous plants. See the Epicurean’s guide to edible flowers and What’s Cooking America’s guide here for detailed listings of uses of edible flowers. It goes without saying; avoid roadside flowers (noxious fumes from car exhaust) and any flower that might have been sprayed with pesticides (public parks,municipal areas, friend’s yards, etc.).
- I’m not really sure if this is safe water bath canning due to a lack of acidity; I recommend refirgerator storage.
Refrigerated for up to 3 months.