Sweet Magic: Summer Solstice Honey Cookies

Then followed that beautiful season… Summer…
Filled was the air with a dreamy and magical light; and the landscape
Lay as if newly created in all the freshness of childhood. ~Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

Looking for a festive way to celebrate the upcoming summer solstice? Well, these aromatic sunny cookies may be just the ticket.  Made with sacred herbs and flowers of the sun, they’re filled with the gathering magic of midsummer traditions. And served up at a summer solstice picnic, they will delight young and old. After, all doesn’t everyone love a pretty cookie?

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And what better way to capture the magic of the longest day of the year? This is the day (June 20th) the sun’s powers are at their peak, from now on the sun will recede from the sky a little earlier each evening. For our Northern European ancestors, summer solstice was the turning point between the waxing and waning cycle of the great year. And they marked the occasion, as they so liked to do, by throwing a party. Feasts, bonfires, and dancing, all in celebration of the glorious midsummer sun. And they still do today!

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Across old Europe, summer solstice had many different names. In Britain it was known as Midsummer, in Latvia, it was Kupala Day or Herb Evening, and in Scandinavia, it was celebrated as Litha.  For women, this was a “Gathering Day”, an important day of ritual first harvest. Wearing ceremonial clothing adorned with symbols of the sun, they would weave flowers into garlands and crowns. Then they would go into the fields and forests to gather plants and herbs.

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On this day plants were believed to be vigorous with the heightened life force of the sun – so it was common knowledge that a curing or magical herb plucked on Midsummer doubled its powers! Folklore tells if you picked nine flowers or the leaf of plantain and put it under the pillow – you would dream your future spouse.

St. John’s Wort, with its solar yellow flowers, is the herb most associated with Midsummer. According to old herbals, it blooms on this day, and along with its many healing abilities, it brought protection from fire, disease, disaster and the evil eye.

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St. John’s Wort

While it was renamed by the Church after St. John (its bright red sap mimics the blood of St. John) it’s association with female powers and witchery is strong. Its flowers were left at the feet of statues of Greek and Roman goddesses, such as Hecate, the goddess of ghosts and sorcery, and Circe, who distilled its leaves and flowers for potent charms. And well-known herbalist, Susun Weed, steadfastly refers to this herb as St. Joan’s Wort.

Other herbs bearing the magical power of the sun include rosemary, vervain, hyssop, fern, mullein, basil, lavender, thyme, fennel, and wormwood. These herbs were associated with powers of invigoration, healing, purification and protection, and the flowers (rose, wild daisy, marigold, cornflower, calendula and more) represented beauty and love.

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Petals were scattered in water or dried in love charms. In Bohemia, girls wore chaplets of mugwort while dancing around the Midsummer bonfire. And on Midsummer’s Eve Italians washed their faces in bowls of water containing flowers, rose petals and herbs.

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And of course, this herbaceous solstice bounty was also consumed! Fresh herbs and traditional midsummer feasting are a long-standing culinary tradition. They were used in dishes made from the first harvest of the season; vegetables (peas and mint, new potatoes and dill), fresh cheeses (like the Latvian Caraway cheese) and alcoholic libations (the Scandinavians made Aquavit with dill, fennel, and coriander). And in Provence five sacred aromatic herbs-rosemary, thyme, marjoram, hyssop and sage, are gathered to make an “infusion aux herbes de Saint Jean.” 

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Herbed New Potato Salad & Latvian Cheese

In Nordic countries, midsummer feast included “sun breads”, cakes or buns made with honey (also a golden sun food) believed to bring fertility, prosperity, and abundance to the community.  One Scandinavian folk tradition recommends including midsummer dew in the dough to cure diseases! Roman’s had their own summer solstice celebration Vestalia, during which priestesses Vestales made sacred cakes with water from her holy spring.

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So inspired by these many summer solstice food traditions,  I decided to do a little baking ritual of my own – midsummer sun cookies! Infused with herby aromatic flavours and flowers of the sun (like rosemary, thyme, lavender, and sage) then coloured golden with a few drops of orangey St.John’s tincture, golden beet colouring and turmeric,  and then adorned with symbols of the sun – they would be food magic indeed.

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And I think they turned out beautifully.  So if you’re looking for a way to mark the turn of the seasons and connect with mother nature, celebrate Gathering Day. Summer solstice festivities traditionally occurred somewhere between June 20th to early July according to differing calendars. So you have plenty of time!

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Girls celebrating summer solstice in Rakov in Russia. Note the solar emblems on her neck and sleeves.

Wear something sunny, and take the children (or not) for a flowery, herby harvest.  But however you decide to enjoy nature’s midsummer bounty, remember that above all, “On Midsummer we eat and dance with abandon, leaving all worries behind. The sun never sets and there are flowers everywhere.” Seems a good a reason as any to celebrate with cookies! 

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Summer Solstice Herby Honey Cookies

Ingredients:

  • 1 & 3/4 cups of flour
  • ¾ C. softened butter
  • ¼ C. honey
  • ¼ brown or cane sugar
  • 1 teaspoon minced thyme
  • 1 teaspoon lavender buds
  • 1 teaspoon minced rosemary
  • 1 teaspoon minced sage
  • a few crushed cardamom seeds
  • pinch of salt

NOTE: I used more like a tablespoon of each herb in my cookies, but this might be too herbaceous for some, so adjust accordingly. And I also added 3/4 cup oatmeal to another batch of cookies and cut back on the flour. Feel free to experiment or use whatever cookie recipe you like…after all it’s not the cookie that matters as much as the spirit!

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Summer Herbs: thyme, lavender, calendula, hyssop and sage blossom

Icing:

  • 3 teaspoons milk
  • 1 cup icing sugar
  • a wee bit of grated lemon rind. ( I also added lavender buds to the second batch of icing)
  • Colouring. I used a combination of golden beet juice, St. John’s Tincture and a pinch of turmeric powder, but of course, you could use a store-bought natural food dye. Recipe for a carrot-based coloured icing here.
  • Combine your milk and icing sugar. Slowing add in your colouring and mix until you find the desired colour/consistency

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Directions:

  • Preheat Oven to 300
  • Beat flour, sugar and soft butter together until creamy.
  • Slowly drizzle in honey while beating until mixture pulls together.
  • Add minced herbs and petals, mix well through the dough.
  • Divide into four balls and chill for an hour or so.
  • Roll out and cut into round shapes. Add flour as needed.
  • Bake at 300 for 10-15 minutes.
  • Let cool.
  • Decorate using the flowers and herbs of the sun: petals of calendula, lawn daisies or ox-eye daisies (not storebought daisy chrysanthemums), St. John’s Wort, rose, or sprigs of rosemary, thyme and sage.

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Note:  St.Johns Tincture can cause photosensitivity or interfere with antidepressants. While there are only a few drops included in the icing (and entirely optional) be careful if you are on antidepressant medication or are sensitive to the sun- i.e. do not consume these cookies in copious amounts (i.e. a dozen a day) for more than a week.

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Whether its through wildcrafting, plant medicine, kitchen witchery or seasonal celebrations, I believe we can enhance personal, community and planetary well-being by connecting with mother nature!

41 thoughts on “Sweet Magic: Summer Solstice Honey Cookies

  1. Reblogged this on hedgecraft and commented:
    Don’t these look AMAZING?? I have a lot on the docket for Summer Solstice this year, but I am going to try hard to fit these little beauties in! The sound divine!

      1. These look delicious, but I felt I need to add a huge word of caution. Daisies are POISONOUS! If you make these you can use every herb mentioned but please please please substitute white chamomile flowers, or else you could kill someone.

      2. Hi there! That’s the first I heard of it…been eating them for years. Lawn daisies, oxeye daisies and shasta daisies are all edible!

      3. Thise varieties may be less toxic in small amounts for those that are not sensitive to the constituents that are in them. There are many easily misidentified varieties of daisy, daisy like flowers like feverfew (which can react negatively with certain medications) & poisonous look alikes that someone can hurt themself with. If you can eat them without I’ll effect then that just means you aren’t sensitive to their toxins, but someone who is could become severely I’ll. It would be a responsible gesture to mention this in your post. It is painless to change the white flower used in decorating for your recipe to chamomile which is non toxic. Again people should be sure of their flowers being the herb described & not a toxic look alike.

      4. I’m truly puzzled by this…first of all, I haven’t even included daisy in the recipe at all – only as a decoration. So the odds of anyone consuming enough to be toxic is remote – but that said daisies have been used for food and medicine for hundreds of years. If you could please provide a reputable source for your assertion that daisy is toxic (I can’t seem to find anything) I would appreciate it.

      5. Really? You must not have looked very hard. Daisy is a common name for a variety of many different types of flowers & while some flowers that have been called daisies can be eaten in very small quantities, other daisies (especially in children) can cause extreme diarrhea, vomiting, hyper salvation & death. Especially chrysanthemum the official “daisy” sold at nurseries. Here is the link from poison control that you wanted me to add https://calpoison.org/topics/plant. Whether you put daisy in the recipe or not you have it pictured & recommended on an edible cookie with no statement to the safer variety of daisy used, or any precautions if said decoration was ingested by your readers. You also show no concern that a person could mistake a chrysanthemum daisy for an oxeye daisy & severely poison themselves because of your lack of caring to caution them that there is a difference. You also seem offended that I would question your post rather than educating yourself & easily amending it responsibly for your readers. I would also suggest you add a warning that st. John’s wort can be skin sensitizing & react negatively when injested if someone is taking certain antidepressants. But what do I know? I’m only an herbalist & you obviously don’t care if your recipes hurt people.

      6. Listen, I appreciate your intentions, I’m happy to include the term “lawn daisies” should anyone mistakenly attempt to eat their store-bought chrysanthemums. And please note all the cookie pictures are of the tiny very edible Bellis perennis -there is not a chrysanthemum among them. Writing the words poisonous in huge capital letters referring to all daisies is misleading and according to the very database you’ve provided chrysanthemum spp. are tummy upsetting but not life-threatening. Interestingly here are some other toxic plants listed: chamomile, curly dock, stinging nettles, juniper, marigold, queen anne’s lace, slippery elm, wild fennel, wild garlic, yarrow, elderberries, barberries, primroses, wood sorrel, even habanero & jalapeno peppers. All of which are edible plants. As a herbalist myself I understand that there is a difference between a plant that may cause an allergic reaction, contain oxalates (as found in spinach, beets and rhubarb) or actually be life-threatening – and exercise caution accordingly. Obviously which part of the plant used and when matters, not to mention amounts consumed. The likelihood of a few drops of St.Johns Tincture in the icing causing photosensitivity or interfering with antidepressants is very low… the cookies would need to be consumed in copious amounts by one individual for several weeks straight! Granted some people may do so, so I will include a warning. Thanks for your concern and I will be more explicit in future.

      7. Your reaction is shocking to me. I hope you do more than just add the word lawn to your post. A true responsible herbalist would recognize that her readers are not as educated on herbs as her & make every effort to take responsibility for their safety. I do not shy away from these herbs either, but I recognize their potential for harm, if used irresponsibly or in the wrong people. For example Queen Anne’s lace can cause miscarriage in pregnant mothers. While yarrow is an amazing healing herb it also clots blood & should not be taken by those with blood clots or on certain b beta blockers. Rhubarb, Garlic, potatoes & eggplant are POISONOUS, if eaten raw & night shades as well as oxalates can do serious damage in some people with rheumatoid arthritis & with kidney or liver disease, if not cooked properly. I would respond the same way to a post that asked someone to make an edible dish with raw rhubarb & potatos. I think you are lacking the ability to take real responsibility for the moral obligation to your readers wellbeing& I don’t think I’m going to change that. I just hope people don’t share your posts all over social media groups where they can harm someone. Which is where I saw this. Please consider your readers safety more in the future. Good day.

      8. If you had originally cautioned that some people could confuse edible daisies with chrysanthemum spp. then perhaps I would have understood you. Instead, you made a blanket statement that daisies are POISONOUS and will kill you – simply untrue. The database you’ve linked to contains toxicity ratings which specify which plants could cause an allergic reaction, skin irritation, cause gastrointestinal distress or kill you. Lumping all plants in this database together and decrying them as fatally poisonous does not take into account these toxicity ratings. Stating that Chrysanthemum will kill you is a misreading of what is actually stated in the database, most reported cases of toxicity involve skin irritation not poisoning/fatalities in children. So while I may be guilty of omitting a warning that mistaking common lawn daisies for store or nursery bought chrysanthemums could irritate your skin or at worst make you sick if you ate a ton of them- at least I haven’t spread any inaccurate information. I appreciate your concern i.e. that you would respond in the same way if someone posted a recipe for raw rhubarb or potatoes but let’s be clear this is not a post advocating eating chrysanthemums! Finally, I’m well aware of the problems of oxalates for example or the contraindications of Queen Annes Lace for pregnant women etc. and I assure you all my posts/recipes are careful in sharing toxicity warnings or contraindications.

  2. Looks amazing! I do hope you don’t mind me adding this to a top 5 summer solstice recipes on my blog. You will be linked back and your blog title will also be mentioned. Please contact me if this is not ok, otherwise blessed be & can’t wait to try these!

  3. Did anyone make these cookies? They are phenomenal! We left the dough in the fridge for two days, as it seemed too soft to use at first, and then we got busy. I think this gave the herbal flavors time to blend. We ended up kneading in a good amount of extra flour, but the cookies came out very well. I can’t even remember all the herbs we used, thyme, lemon thyme, bee balm, lemon balm, lavender, rosemary, sage, mint, maybe some more? Basically raided the garden. Chopped up very fine. The cookies are almost like a shortbread. Got to work on our decorating techniques though.

  4. Wow! What a beautiful treat for the Spirit as well as the eyes. The photos are gorgeous! Can hardly wait to try the recipes. Have shared with the TreeSisters groups…. they will truly appreciate this!

  5. I made these last week for summer solstice and they were so, so, delicious. Thank you so much! I am going to link to the recipe, and will definitely be making them again.

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