A Taste of Spring: Edible Wildflowers

May 28, 2020

These fragrant flowers are a fleeting seasonal delight. Capture them with these recipes.

I’ve always had a fascination with all the edible treasures that grow in the wild.

Before my family had a vegetable garden and an orchard, there were always bitter herbs to be foraged, tiny tart wild apples to be picked, hedgerows of blackberries teeming with life at the end of summer. There were pine nuts collected under century-old pine trees, and wild mushrooms that Grandma would bring home in a wicker basket.

And in the spring, there were the most delicate edible flowers, a fleeting but intense seasonal delight in the kitchen.

Black Locust Flowers

I grew up recognizing spring by the smell of fiori di acacia, acacia flowers, blooming underneath my bedroom window. They are easy to spot: clusters of tiny, butterfly-shaped white flowers, smelling intensely of honey.

As a child, I used to play with the dried flowers collected on the ground to make what I would call mangiarini, inedible potions of water, dried petals and leaves, sand, and anything else I could find in the garden—my first attempt at cooking!

Now that I’ve moved a few yards from my parents’ house, the big tree is just in front of my kitchen window. In the spring, I keep my windows wide open to let that wonderful honeyed aroma drift in.

What we call acacia here in Italy is actually Robinia pseudoacacia, known as black locust or false acacia in the tree’s native North America. It was introduced to Europe from North America in 1601 by the botanist Jean Robin, gardener and herbalist to the French kings. We can still admire the first tree he planted in Paris, in the Place Dauphine, which is said to be the ancestor of all the robinia trees in Europe.

Bees love black locust. You’ve probably tasted a spoonful of its pale, runny honey, delicate and floral.

Black locust flowers are considered a delicacy, and not just by bees! The most common use for them in the kitchen is to lightly batter and deep-fry them. You can serve the crisp, fragrant fritters either as a sweet treat, dusted with sugar, or an appetizer, sprinkled with salt.

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