Nature is not a procrastinator’s enabler. She moves ever forward, reminding us, we are on her time. We must nurture tiny seeds before the last frost. We must water before the intense heat of the afternoon. We must harvest in due time and then rake leaves over garden beds, blanketing them for the coming cold. She moves in cycles, and we too must move with her, lest our flower beds lay flowerless and our tomato trellises stand tall and barren. Nature is not a procrastinator’s enabler.
Last year, I took that notion for granted. Day in, day out, little Julep and I passed bushes brimming with honeysuckle. Their yellows were eye-catching, and their fragrance was intoxicating. Yet, every day, I thought, “Oh, I have to remember to pick these tomorrow.” Finally, “tomorrow” became a sad collection of shriveled flowers, the last exasperated efforts of photosynthesis. I was too late.
I vowed not to be so reckless with Mother Nature’s schedule the next year, this year, and I waited expectantly. The Urban Farmer and I stood in his field, digging, weeding, planting, just like the other days of digging, weeding, planting, except on this particular day, there was an incredible smell in the air- sweet and floral. Like a word poised on the tip of the tongue, the fragrance was familiar but still hidden in a hillside of indeterminate green. It wasn’t until walking the same old Julep route, I realized what we had been smelling- honeysuckle in bloom!
We walked uphill, under a washed-out, turquoise bridge, turned the bend, and the fragrance greeted us once more. Into the bag of farmers market strawberries and sweet, sweet peaches, we dropped petal after petal. True to my vow, we picked, brainstormed and experimented, and this was the first pass. Much like the first efforts at planting, there are lessons learned and plenty of room for reworking, but as far as turning over procrastination leaves, it was a very good, sweet, honey-laced place to start.
If the honeybees and maple trees decided to share the burden of sweetening our breakfasts and teas, if the dairy cow decided to snack from the branches teasing her with sweet smells… these were the magical unions in my head. These were my attempts to harness a wild flower’s aroma.
The results were mild but intriguing. They left the tongue and the brain questioning the hints of honey in maple syrup and the faint floral notes in a spread of butter melting down a stack of hotcakes.
I made good on the promise I made to myself and to those blossoming branches at the top of the hill, just beyond the patinaed dome of the beautiful cathedral. There’s still time to experiment further, though not much time. These flowers, the seasons, Mother Nature in general, is a schedule to be embraced without delay. We’ve been spoiled and desensitized by transports of produce and aisles of peaked produce, but the here and the now is trying to harness the scent in the air into our breakfast. How will you use these little yellow gifts?
Gluten-Free Pancakes with Honeysuckle Infused Butter & Maple Syrup
About This Recipe: Rare is the occasion you will see me recommend a pre-made mix of any sort, but it seems I have a soft spot when it comes to all natural, gluten-free, pancake mixes. I keep them on hand in case I have a gluten-free guest, but for this Monday morning treat, I went for the ease of the mix, so I could focus on my flower experiments. Rather than buying an assortment of flours, the mix does it all for you! For these round, puffy beauties, I used Pamela’s Pancake & Waffle Mix, which uses sorghum flour and has big hints of vanilla. The honeysuckle infusions are experimental and not precise in the least, so take my “research” as a start, and adjust as you see fit.
Honeysuckle Infused Butter
1 stick organic butter (preferably from a grass-fed cow)
a handful of freshly picked honeysuckle flowers, rinsed and patted dry
Melt the butter over medium heat, stirring frequently to prevent burning. Once melted, remove from heat, and transfer to a ramekin. Add the flowers, stirring to distribute evenly. Set aside to cool and set. If you need to speed up the setting process, store in the freezer briefly or the refrigerator.
Note: Alternately, you can strain the flowers as the butter begins to set. I left them so as to pull as much flavor from the flowers as possible. The result is a mild floral flavor.
Honeysuckle Infused Maple Syrup
2 cups organic maple syrup
1-2 cups freshly picked honeysuckle flowers, rinsed and patted dry
Heat the maple syrup in a pot over medium heat, until it starts to boil. Remove from heat, and add honeysuckle. Set aside to cool. Store in an airtight container in the refrigerator when not using.
Note: You can strain the flowers, or leave them to steep as much flavor as possible. Experiment with the flower quantity. Using 1-2 cups yielded a flavor that tasted like a cross between wildflower honey and maple syrup with tones of yerba mate.