Edible flowers are very much in vogue today. A variety of articles can be found in women's magazines, foods magazines, and newspapers.
Photo by Amanda Gragert Now is the perfect time to enjoy Alaska Fireweed Honey.
There are a number of flowers in Southeast that can be mixed in salads, used for cake and pastry decorating, and brewed for teas.
These include violas, dandelions, lilacs, and wild roses. Resources and recipes for use are easily found both in print and on the Internet (search with key words: edible flowers). Be forewarned that not all flowers are edible, so be safe and do some research before incorporating them into your diet.
My favorite local flower is the fireweed; due primarily to the fact that I had never seen the fireweed plant before living in Alaska. Its vibrant color aside, I like the fact that the progression of the summer season can be measured as the blooms mature up the stem.
Leaves and stems from the fireweed plant can be gathered for tea before the plants flower. These are best picked in the spring when they are young and tender. Mature leaves eventually become tough and bitter.
I made Alaska Fireweed Honey also known as Homesteaders' Honey last year, and it has proved to be a family favorite. Now is the perfect time to enjoy the following recipe taken from the Cooperative Extension Service UAF publication, "Collecting and Using Alaska's Wild Berries and Other Wild Products." Copies are available in the Juneau District office or you may order online: http://www.uaf.edu/ces/publications
Alaska Fireweed Honey
10 cups sugar
2 ½ cups boiling water
1 teaspoon alum (thickener)
30 white clover blossoms
18 red clover blossoms
18 fireweed blossoms (1 or 2 stalks)
Note: numbers of all flower blossoms are approximate; feel free to use more as desired
Sterilize pint or half-pint canning jars and prepare lids according to manufacturer's instructions. Boil together sugar, water, and alum for 10 minutes; maintain steady boil on low heat. Remove from heat. Add blossoms and let steep for 15 minutes. Strain mixture through cheesecloth. Immediately pour honey into hot canning jars, leaving ¼ inch head space. Wipe jar rims and add prepared two-piece lids. Process 5 minutes in a boiling water bath. Yield: 8 cups
If the honey should crystallize after being opened, remove lid from the jar and microwave for a minute. Or, put the jar in a pan of water and heat on the stove until dissolved. This method works for all types of honey.
Dr. Koukel is the Juneau District Agent for the Home Economics Programs of the UAF Cooperative Extension Service.