Let’s talk about peach blossoms today, and other similar wild edibles.
(And my apologies for the delay in posting – life with baby and travel make posting on time a little more difficult these days!)
Some background: last I posted, we were gearing up for an awful hard freeze (temps in the teens) when we’d been having our false spring weather here (temps in the 60s and above). The blackberries were budding leaves, violets and deadnettle were spreading throughout the property, and our peach tree was juuuuust starting to blossom.
The good news is, the emergency mulch appears to have worked: other than a few dead blossoms that managed to bloom before the freeze, our tree is just as pink and beautiful as it is every spring:
In even better news, we
procrasinated waited to prune the tree until less than two weeks ago, like we’ve been told by smarter folks than us, which means we had a ton of peach blossoms just hanging out on pruned branches and twigs.
In past years, pruning the tree while it blossomed would send me into panic mode. “It’s too late!” my brain screamed at me. “WE’RE KILLING THE TREE!” Heck, I just about panicked up until two weekends ago, when I spent my Saturday taking two classes at the Organic Growers’ School spring conference. And my first class, one about making spring teas, tonics, and mead blew. My. Mind.
Because the instructor came in with an armful of flowering peach branches, among other wild edibles and herbs. I was so excited that I immediately texted husband, and almost couldn’t wait to get home, prune the tree, and use those suckers for all kinds of tasty stuff.
Currently, we’re using peach blossoms for three, perhaps four “projects”:
- A short-term peach blossom (and wild violet) mead. In the class, I combined peach blossoms, young wild violets, honey, and filtered water into a clean jar, sealed it, and shook it up. It’s currently sitting on my counter, away from direct sunlight, and fermenting beautifully. I filtered and tasted it today, and let’s just say it won’t last long in this house.
- A long-term peach blossom mead. The big homebrews are husband’s projects, generally, and he’s been super stoked about this one. Currently, it smells beautifully floral and lightly fruity, and we’re looking forward to trying this one in perhaps a month or so.
- Peach blossom tea infusions. I collected a lot (A LOT) of peach blossoms in my frenzy, so we’re using the extras to infuse and steep with other teas and herbs. Most notably, we’ve been drinking green tea with peach blossoms, which is lightly floral and tames the grassiness of the green tea just a touch. Quite tasty.
- I’m not a decorator, but I love fresh flowers and bouquets. Hey, kids! Did you know you can use flowering blossoms as a bouquet? Mind blown again.
So you wanna try using some spring blossoms in your own tea or tonic? Neat!
Remember to make sure what you’re using is actually edible. Seriously. Don’t go picking and eating random things, and don’t depend entirely on a guidebook or (even worse) Google images to tell you something is edible. Ask a seasoned forager or other expert if you’re not sure what you’re foraging is good to eat or drink. Check out my previous post on wild edibles for a refresher on responsible foraging.
Got it? Good. Now, then, back to the good part.
Okay, just kidding. Another disclaimer. I’m an amateur forager and creator of said teas, tonics, and meads. I’m still learning to make these potables myself, with the help of experts who’ve been doing it for ages. I highly recommend taking a class (or more) with an expert and/or reading up on making these things in more detail. I’m doing that, and it’s what the cool kids are doing.
Okay, now we’re back. I’m only focusing on the short-term projects here:
- Teas – herbs steeped in hot water for about 5-10 minutes for a tasty drink
- Tonics – herbal infusions that can be consumed (usually drunk) daily to improve health
- Short-term mead – a mixture of water, herbs, and honey allowed to ferment for about a week for a tasty, fizzy beverage
I recommend starting with teas first, as they’re the quickest and have the highest chance of success, and they’re good stepping stones to fermentation projects.
Some general guidelines for teas, tonics, and short-term meads:
- Taste what you’re using individually. You can make simple teas out of single herbs (e.g., thyme tea, violet tea, etc.) and check out their flavor profiles, how much they over- or under-power other flavors, and their mouthfeels and aromas. This way, you know how much to infuse in a blend, as well as actually see if you like the taste of a particular herb.
- Research your herbs and what they can do. This goes for taste, yes, but also the medicinal effects they have in concentrated quantities (such as in a yes or tonic). Be smart about it.
- Wash with care. If I’m making a mead or other ferment with a wild edible that I sourced myself (or got from a very trusted source), I won’t wash it. Wait, WHAT? This is because there is valuable, beautiful yeast on those blossoms, and I want that yeast to eat the honey and make tasty, tasty fermented beverages. If I don’t know the source precisely (including and especially store-bought fruits, etc.), or know that pesticides were used, I’ll rinse those ingredients well.
- Wash/sterilize your fermentation and steeping receptacles (jars, etc.). While I want the yeast on my plants to infuse and make fermentation happen, I don’t want random stuff hanging out in my jars to join the party, and neither do you.
- If you’re making a short-term mead, drink it fairly quickly (within a week, or less) after the initial fermentation. Why? That yeast will keep on eating sugar and producing CO2, changing the flavor at best (becoming more vinegar-like rather than sweet), but also creating an explosion risk at worst if you keep it tightly closed. Also, keep that sucker loosely closed, mmm’kay?
I’ll stop there for today, because I can go (and eventually plan to go) down all kinds of rabbit holes with this subject. Long story short, get outside and try working with some cool wild edible blossoms. Until next time, happy homesteading!