“Oh, dear little daisy, come whisper me softly, And tell me a secret I’m longing to know…Oh, say does he love me, and whisper it low.”—Burton Egbert Stevenson,“He Loves Me, Loves Me Not”
The traditional British recipe for Daisy Capers uses the tall Ox-Eye Daisy that blooms in grassy fields each summer — but the common Lawn Daisy (blooming right now) is just as delicious and such easy pickings! Springing up in snowy white patches everywhere, they have a slightly sweet “carroty” flavour — not to mention a nice crisp bite. Really! Just try one and see!
The daisy’s latin name “Bellis Perennis” means “beautiful flower” and these capers are oh so pretty, their rims edged in pink, with their yellow centres peeking out. Salty and piquant, I’ve tossed them into pasta, a Chicken Piccata and egg salad sandwiches, and yes – just eaten them right out of the jar. Yesterday I included some in my Easter Brunch Potato Salad!
Easy to harvest, you can find all the daisies you need for this recipe in an hour. And getting the kids involved makes picking go even faster (well sometimes). Sitting in large patch of daisies on a warm sunny afternoon isn’t a bad way to spend some time either. Make it a picnic! And while you’re at it, share some daisy lore.
The word daisy comes from “eye of the day” because its flower opens at dawn and closes at dusk. And folklore says they will shut when bad weather is coming. Steeped in magic, the daisy is associated with the sun, fairies and the Goddess Venus and Aphrodite.
To dream of daisies in spring is lucky, making daisy chains was a protective spell to keep children from harm, and placing daisy roots under a pillow will bring dreams of absent ones. And like the old custom of pulling petals (he loves me, he loves me not) the daisy is most associated with love spells.
An old story tells how Rose, the queen of the flowers, had a birthday party and all the flowers were invited. One little flower was too shy to come, believing herself not comely enough to appear before the Queen of Flowers. But the Queen was said to have assured her that there was no need to be ashamed: Its dress was spotlessly white and it had a heart of gold. This made the little flower blush, and ever since then the tips of its ray-florets have been pink.
Common daisy leaves taste like lettuce and were traditionally used as a potherb and salad green. A handful of daisy greens tossed in a salad, pasta or veggie side dish are an excellent way to add vitamin C (the daisy has over 100 mg. of vitamin per 100 grams of fresh leaves – making it comparable to the lemon!) Medieval salad recipes often combined them with sorrel and dandelion. (But take note, daisy leaves and sorrel contain oxalates, which consumed in large quantities can cause digestive upset, so go easy!) It can also be used as a medicinal infusion to strengthen bones, reduces the risk of cancer, relieve indigestion, ease coughs as a treatment for rheumatism, arthritis, liver and kidney disorders, and as a blood purifier.
Which is great because Daisy Flower Capers are easy peasy to make. You simply pour a warm salted vinegar over the buds and let sit, ideally, for six weeks. (I admit I can never wait this long, mine are usually gone the first week). You can go with a white wine or apple cider vinegar or get more creative. Spices can be traditional, peppercorns, allspice, mustard grains and garlic, or you can add wild herbs like lemon balm, crow garlic seeds or bulbs (commonly known as wild onion or wild mint. You are the chef, and it’s up to you!
Lawn Daisy Flower Capers
- 1 cup unopened daisy flower buds
- 1/2 teaspoon of black peppercorns
- 4 allspice berries
- few sprigs of rosemary or lavender (whatever herb you’d like basically!)
- 1 teaspoon of sea salt (I like mine salty so I used two, but please taste and salt as suits)
- 1/2 teaspoon mustard grains (or throw in a few bittercress seed pods or flowers instead)
- 1 garlic clove, finely sliced
- 1/2 tablespoon local wildflower honey
- 1 cup white wine vinegar
- (I also tossed in a tablespoon of nettle seeds for an extra nutritional punch – but this completely optional)
- Wash the daisy flower buds and trim the stems. Allow to dry thoroughly.
- In the bottom of a two cup mason jar (500 mL) (or two one cup jars) place the black peppercorns, allspice berries, salt, mustard grains and garlic. Then pack in the daisy flower buds.
- Bring the white wine vinegar to almost boiling. Take off the heat, then pour over the contents of daisies, filling the jar to the rim. Secure with vinegar-proof lids, label then store in a cool, dark, cupboard for four to six weeks to mature.
That’s it! You’re done
P.S. The Daisy is one of the first flowers for bees in early spring, so harvest responsibly – no bucketfuls!