Nothing says summer to me grabbing a big handful of milkweed flowers and taking a whiff. The smell is so sweet, so floral, but at the same time, it's not cloying at all. It's just deep, dark and so sweet. If I close my eyes while I smell my mind drifts to the things that will pair well with them, little lines of dancing cherries, strawberries, red currants, watermelon, and peaches: to me milkweed flowers want fruit, they crave fruit.
They're one of the most versatile wildflowers I know of: strong, sturdy, yet tender enough to pop in your mouth and sprinkle into salads or on top of a dish. Kept in the fridge in a plastic bag or contiainer, they'll last for weeks. Read that again: a beautiful flower that lasts for weeks, that you can eat?! YES.
One of my favorite things to make with them is milkweed cordial, a fruity, floral syrup you can do all kinds of stuff with. When people hear the word cordial, a lot of times they get a vision of something you'd make drinks with, but it's more than just for drinks.
Drizzle some over vanilla, or even better yet a tart ice cream made with buttermilk, and top with a few strawberries. The high amount of sugar in the syrup also means that it's a preserative in itself, so could even preserve berries in the syrup, then spoon them onto things after they've had a little marriage in the fridge for a while.
But wait, there's more. You can substitute vinegar for all or parts of the water in the syrup, and it makes for even better savory uses, since I don't like things too sweet. To boot, a lot of floral and fruity aromas and very soluble in solutions that have vinegar in them, or in just pure vinegar itself. For non-drink uses, I always add 50%
Milkweed Flower Cordial
- 7 ounces fresh milkweed flowers as deep colored as possible, remove from the stem
- 1 teaspoon citric acid
- 5 cups white sugar
- 4 cups water
- Heat the water until warm, but not boiling. Add the sugar and citric acid then whisk until the syrup is clear.
- Cool the syrup.
- Look the milkweed flowers over for walking creatures and creepy crawlies, then put into a container and pour over the cooled syrup.
- Put a lid, label and date on the container and let it sit in the sunshine on a windowsill for 4 days.
- After 3 days, strain the syrup, using gloves to squeeze as much liquid from the flowers as possible. Discard the flowers. Refrierate the syrup in a labeled, dated container, or bottles until needed.
Milkweed Flower Shrub
- 2 ounces milkweed flowers or 1.5 cups flowers
- 1 cup sugar
- 1 cup champagne or white wine vinegar
- Stir the vinegar and sugar until melted, then add the milkweed flowers and allow to sit in a container like a mason jar, with lid, at room temperature. Strain after a week and store in the fridge for the best flavor.