Lilac Honey

We grow used to associating certain plants with months or days of the year, our powder blue  flag irises flower on my eldest son’s birthday, mid May. 

Memories

A favourite rose bush flowered at the end of May, sealed in my memory bank as my parents helped me unload a van with my paintings at midnight after an exhibition in London. The scent was intoxicating and a reward for a long drive and heavy work.

Our lilac tree usually flowers in mid May, but today, April 24th, the sunshine after the mornings showers, has brought it into bloom.

“…It must have been an early

Spring that year as I had also harvested some

honey from one of my hives.”

This blooming reminded me of some infused honey I made back in 2016. It must have been an early Spring that year as I had also harvested some honey from one of my hives.

I prefer to harvest honey early in the season, knowing that they’ve survived the winter and the dandelions, and holly are blossoming with the apples to give the bees plenty of fresh nectar.

“…The lilac had inspired me to

research just how I could capture

and preserve the scent.”

2016 was my first year of feeling well, yet I was still dabbling with careers and working part time with Carnells’ of Castle Cary whilst studying Herbal Medicine.

Heavenly Scent

The lilac had inspired me to research just how I could capture and preserve the scent. Superstition tells of bad luck from bringing lilac into the house, although I believe that’s only white lilac. A bit of research found of using sugar mixed with lilacs to infuse the scent. Then I found information about using honey as a preservative.

I spent a healthy few hours sat in the sunshine carefully picking each flower head from several bunches of lilac. The green bases are bitter, so they needed to be removed.

Once I had a pot full, I poured my freshly harvested liquid honey over the blossoms, popped the lid on and left it for three weeks.

“…I spent a healthy few

hours sat in the sunshine carefully picking each flower

head from several bunches of lilac.”

The temptation to occasionally lift the lid and inhale the aroma was too great, and so most days I did just that.

Straining

It was with great excitement when the day came to strain the mixture. Most of the petals were still lilac, but around the edges they’d turned brown and so any thoughts of bottling the honey with the petals were soon discarded- soggy brown lilac petals didn’t fit with my romantic vision of fresh lilac petals suspended in honey!

Ensuring that not a drop was wasted, I left the mixture straining through a sieve and muslin cloth for a few days, until the mushy petals were completely free of honey. The mush I then returned to my bee hive for the bees to finish off cleaning, after all it was their honey in the first place!

My lengthy endeavour resulted in 4 4oz jars of honey, but oh this really was heavenly honey.

 

Limited edition

Four 4 oz jars is not enough to enter into a competition, market across the internet, or even the weekly market. This was VERY special honey, and so reserved as gifts for a few very special people.

The success of this honey was marred by the fact that there were no more lilac flowers left to painstakingly pick so another year had to pass before I produced a second batch, this time I doubled my production.

Life had moved on though and sitting in the sunshine picking individual lilac petals wasn’t the best use of my time, despite the temptation.

“…Using the gift packaging technique Rowan Atkinson

performed in ‘Love Actually’…”

Rose petals, however, were quicker to pick, and in our garden with over 24 rose bushes, available over a longer time span. Rose infused honey was my specialty that year, enough to sell, but only to very special people. Using the gift packaging technique Rowan Atkinson performed in ‘Love Actually’, each jar was then surrounded in dried rose buds and wrapped with ribbons, to accentuate the pure luxury that this honey was.

Petal Plucking

If the weather stays warm, whilst the lilac is flowering, then I may indulge  myself in an afternoon of petal plucking. I’ll ask the bees if they have some honey to share, and maybe 2019 will be another year for special edition infused honey.

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