It’s been a beautiful, flowery spring here on Vancouver Island. As a happily displaced prairie person, I’m still flabbergasted by the parade of flowers here this time of year. Crocuses and snowdrops in February, frilly cherry and apple blossoms in March and then look out for the daffodils, tulips, camas, bluebells, daisies, honesty, forget-me-nots, buttercups and a zillion other spring blooms of April—nevermind the lilacs gearing up for their annual purple, white and perfumed performance that’ll land them in so many Mother’s Day bouquets.
Despite all the glorious fragrant springtime commotion, lately I’ve had lavender on my mind. Maybe it’s because I’m fresh out of the buds I dried last summer. Or maybe its the tempermental nature of spring—one day warm, the next rainy and windy—that has me longing for the hot summer afternoon scent of lavender. Third option: I’m just blooming greedy. Who knows? The heart wants what the heart wants.
And so, this past weekend, as I was testing recipes for our upcoming Wild May Picnic, I found myself standing in my front garden pondering lemonade and the fresh green leaves of my lavender plant. I’ve cooked and baked with lavender blooms a fair bit, but I’ve pretty much left the leaves alone. The whole plant really does smell wonderful… Maybe I’d been needlessly limiting myself. Maybe I wouldn’t have to wait for the blooms to experience the sweet, spicy, herbal punch that only lavender can deliver. So I got to work plucking leaves and contemplating the best way to infuse the flavour.
I settled on muddling the leaves a bit and boiling them in a simple syrup. I let the syrup cool and then strained out the leaves. Several juiced lemons later, a few cups of water and some fancy wildflower ice cubes and I had myself a lovely, fragrant lemonade perfect for an afternoon of maying or lounging in the summer sun. It does taste a little sharper than an infusion made with lavender buds, but I quite liked it. You can fiddle with the water and sugar amounts to sort out a taste that suits you best.
Lavender Leaf Simple Syrup
- 2 cups cane sugar
- 1 cup water
- bunch of fresh lavender leaves
Muddle your lavender leaves in the bottom of a saucepan. Add the water & sugar and give it a good stir.
Boil the sugar, water and leaves and simmer for few minutes, until the sugar dissolves.
Remove from heat and let steep for about an hour – or until you’re happy with the taste. Strain the leaves out and transfer the syrup to a glass bottle with a lid.
You can refridgerate this for up to a month if you’re not using it right away.
Lavender Leaf Lemonade with Wildflower Floral Ice Cubes
- 1 cup lemon juice (5 organic lemons)
- lavender leaf simple syrup
- cold water
- wildflower floral water ice cubes (see directions below)
Rough your lemons up a bit. Push on them and roll them around to make them easier to juice.
Juice enough lemons to get a cup of lemon juice.
Add the juice to a pitcher and add cold water and lavender leaf simple syrup to taste. Top off with a frosty pile of colourful wildflower ice cubes.
To make wildflower floral water ice cubes: Fill the ice cube tray half full with water and sprinkle a few wildflowers or petals into each cube. I used honesty petals, lawn daisies, forget-me-nots, violets & mint leaves, but any edible flower will do. Obviously, once summer comes you’ll want to go nuts with the lavender buds. Once the water is frozen, add a few more flowers and top off the half-filled cubes up with orange blossom water and/or rose water. I did six of each. As the ice melts, your drink gets more and more floral. Some kind of wonderful.
Feel free to ruffle up the pretty a bit with a splash or two of vodka. You could even sugar the glass and add some soda water, if you’re feeling fancy.