Outdoor activities with a healthy dose of curiosity, brought to you by Laure Latham
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I love using foraged plants in cooking and spring wildflowers are a great excuse to get out and experiment. Indeed, a lot of wildflowers are edible and as long as you can identify them, you can use them in this spring wildflower lemonade recipe to wonderful results with your family.
As soon as the first wildflowers bloomed after a long winter in London, I took my family on hikes just to see pretty wildflowers in the woods or in meadows. They started off white (snowdrops), then pale purple (crocus), yellow (daffodils) and now we’re on to the next wave of spring flowers. When I realized that many of these wildflowers were not only edible but also good for my health, I decided to make this spring wildflower lemonade recipe at home to surprise my girls with a foraged home brew that tasted like a spring day outside.
Below, I’m sharing the recipe along with a short list of wildflowers that I foraged for this recipe but it’s very likely that your flower mix will be different. Don’t let that put you off trying this great spring activity. Your kids will love seeing wildflowers steep on the windowsill as part of the lemonade process. In the order that I spotted them, the flowers I foraged are violets, daisies, green alkanet and dandelion. Scroll down to find out more about them.
To make 1/2L (1 pint) of lemonade, I used:
After foraging for the wildflowers and cleaning them, this is what I did.
Now, a note on edible (or not) spring wildflowers.
Rich in beta-carotene, vitamin A and C, the humble violet is a common spring sight in London parks. The first time I saw violets in the city, I rubbed my fingers against the petals to make sure they were violets indeed. To be sure, I was a bit dubious but the unmistakable violet fragrance convinced me that yes, these were true violets. Fortunately, wild violets are not very picky flowers when it comes to habitat. Though they prefer moist and partly-shaded soils such as woods, stream banks and thickets, I found mine on a grassy lawn in full sun. Just pinch the stem below the flower and set aside in an open box. They wilt quickly and don’t well in plastic bags.
Most kids will recognize daisies from making daisy chains, but they are about to learn that daisy chains actually make healthy snacks. Also known as ox eye daisies, Leucanthemum vulgare make fun additions to salads and desserts, and can be pickled. Daisies help fight colds and coughs and have cleansing as well as diuretic properties. Here’s a recipe for daisy tempura if you end up with too many daisy chains on the trail.
When I saw a bee suck nectar directly from a green alkanet flower, I knew I had to pick very few of these flowers. Bees need all the help they can get and this bee seemed to be particularly enjoying these pretty blue flowers. The root of green alkanet has long been used to make natural dyes and as an antibacterial medicine, but most parts of the plant are edible, including the flowers. I only picked four flowers because they were pretty and added variety to my spring wildflowers “bouquet.”
Probably the easiest wildflowers to identify besides daisies, dandelion flowers bring a touch of golden yellow to any spring wildflowers mix. They are also very high in beta-0carotene, which we convert in vitamin A, and antioxydants. On my walk, I only spotted a lone dandelion flower and assumed that it was maybe a bit early in the season (mid-March) for dandelion flowers. However, as soon as the plants start blooming, from April to June, it will be very abundant and I’ll probably go crazy on dandelion everything. If you have dandelions near you, don’t be shy. They are extremely persistent.
During my foraging expedition, I also harvested a blue wildflower that was extremely pretty. As I couldn’t ID it on the spot (it was new to me), I took a picture of the whole plant with leaves and harvested one stem to take home and examine. All the while, I kept this plant separate from my lemonade jar ingredients. I’ve now had confirmation that it is scilla siberica, a very toxic flower whose plant is on the ingredients’ list for rat poison. Geez!
In a few words, please be sure that you can POSITIVELY ID foraged wildflowers before picking and eating them.