When our first spring at the farm arrived, I was surprised to find that there were no lilacs blooming. Lilacs are such an old fashioned flower that I was sure, someone, somewhere along the way, had planted lilacs. Alas, that was not the case! We’ve since added 8 varieties of lilacs and will continue to add one or two a year. Of those 8, only three are really producing as I had to buy a handful of the plants as starters from a farm in Maine in order to get the varieties I wanted. Thus, it will take time for these plants to get big enough to really start cranking out flowers!
Aside from bringing lilacs in to enjoy in a vase, I find it fun to cook with them. Did you know that lilac petals are edible? I love cooking and baking with edible flowers and jump at a chance to make anything with flowers that I’ve grown. However, I almost always only use flowers that I know the origin of as I don’t want to accidently feed my family, or friends, with anything that has been sprayed to keep pests away. Because of this, I don’t usually wash the lilacs before separating the petals. I will try to harvest them soon after a rainshower and I give them a shake so that I don’t bring any unwanted pests inside either. If you feel more comfortable washing your lilacs, by all means do so! Just make sure they are completely dry before you use them. Lilacs are easy to cook with as the petals easily separate from the stems (you want to be sure to remove any of the green on the petal) and I’ve found that it does take a fair number of petals to yield enough flavor.
The first thing I ever made with lilacs was Lilac Sugar. It’s super easy and will keep for a long time! One can use it to make desserts or simply add it to coffee or tea. Something to make note of: I’ve found the flavor of lilacs to be very subtle so don’t expect to be bowled over by it in the sugar.
If you were to Google making Lilac Sugar, a plethora of “recipes” would come up. I’ve made Lilac Sugar for a number of years and this is simply my favorite way. I use a ratio of 1 cup of lilac petals to 1 1/2 cups of sugar. It can be as simple as layering your petals and sugar in a clean, dry jar that has a good seal on it. Let sit for as long as you can so that the flavor of the petals can permeate through all of the sugar.
However, I’ve started taking it a bit further and blitzing the sugar in my food processor. This helps evenly distribute the flavor and doesn’t leave whole petals (my daughter doesn’t care for coming across those little bits!) floating around in whatever you may be using the sugar for. It also gives a beautiful color to your sugar but beware that that doesn’t last (or at least I haven’t found a way to make it do so!).
This year in an effort to not have the sugar harden as the petals release their moisture, I am spreading the sugar out on a cookie sheet to let it dry out for a couple of days. The other option would be to just blitz the sugar in your food processor once again if it gets too hard.