Honeysuckle – Lonicera
|the wettest April, May & June on record. Everything is eyewateringly green and beautiful in West Wales. The wild food seems to be just going for it at every given opportunity and there is staggering amounts of honeysuckle weaving its way through the hedges. So much that for the first year ever I feel that there is enough for me to have a bit too.|
Flicking through an old country recipe book, I read that it needs to be picked in full sunshine on a warm day. I have spent the last week or so sticking my head into the patch up the lane at various times of the day, mostly in the rain to be fair, but have decided that the best time to pick it is either in the early morning (not likely for me) or at dusk, when they are pumping out their nectar with heady summery scents to attract the moths, who can, according to my book, smell it from a mile away.
Last night was full moon and seemed a fitting time to pick the blossoms, even though I couldn’t actually see the moon, due to the thick layer of cloud that has been blanketing us since Spring.
|I decide that if I pick them again I would like to do it by moonlight. I started off at about 8.30 and spent about an hour and a half following the amber trail down the lanes. The later it got the stronger the scent was perfuming the evening air and I was reassured by the company of bees and a couple of months, who were also out for the honey blooms. Honeysuckleflowers in clusters, opening first from the outside then inwards. Apparently the most flavoursome blossomss are the ones just about to fall from the plant, which pleases me because then I only have to gently tug at the older flowers, leaving the rest intact. Picking leaves my fingers sticky with golden sap.|
I pop a few in my mouth and suck out the tiny drop of sweet juice, transported back to the ten year old me in the garden of my friend Juliette, supping on these faerie cups for the first time.
At ten it is nearly dark and I am tired, I see a fox trotting down the road, and travel home, sticking my head into the bag at regular intervals and inhaling deeply.
|I start making jelly, using a recipe which, as I get too far in to turn back, get a sneeky feeling this hasn’t actually been made my the author, just embellished it a little.2kg Honeysuckleenough water to coverBoil honeysuckle for 20 minutes, leave overnight then strain though a jelly bag.Add 2kg sugar to the 1.8kg strained juice.|
Next day the juice looks like sludge , the first dent into my expectation of ‘the taste of summer’ . It tastes as good as it looks but I add the sugar. Retaste, only it is worse, because now I know that sugar won’t help. I consult google and regret not doing this sooner. ….It would appear that if you don’t snip off the green bit of flower, where it joins the plant, you end up with a very bitter and rather unpleasant flavour. If I had known this I would have left them on the plant because there is no way I am hand snipping that many flowers, and I now have a pan full of yuk.
Grumpy, I remember experimenting can go wrong, and head out to find solace in the last of the elderflowers, sweet creamy clouds of faithful tastiness, leaving the honeysuckle for the bees and moths.