21 July 2013

You Be the Bee

Capture the essence of spending a summer afternoon lying in a meadow with your favourite book by making this honey-like syrup infused with clover and wild rose.

This recipe came to us from our neighbour, Vanessa, who takes no credit for it, telling us it is an old, old, old British recipe.  

Clover is at the peak of flowering when wild rose
becomes available.
Vanessa's Clover "Honey"

80 white clover blossoms
40 red clover blossoms
5 wild rose petals
2 kg granulated sugar
3 c water
1/2 tsp alum powder

(See notes below about finding and selecting flowers.)

Remove all greenery from the clover (stems and sepals).  Place both types of clover blossom and rose petals in a large heat-proof dish.  (I used a rectangular pyrex baking dish.)  Set aside on a heat-resistant surface.

Boil vigorously, do not simmer.
Combine sugar, water and alum in a large heavy-bottomed saucepan; carefully bring to a boil stirring occasionally until sugar is dissolved.

You want to be very careful not to let this boil over as it is, after all, hot boiling sugar: send your dogs, cats, and young hairless bipedal pets out of the kitchen before starting.  You are reading the instructions completely before starting, right?  If not, kick them out now.  
Let the flowers stand in the hot sugar syrup to take full
advantage of their flavour and colour.

Let boil vigorously for 5 minutes.  If the liquid remains cloudy, boil until clear.  Remove from heat and let rest for 30-60 seconds.  

Pour hot sugar syrup over flowers and let stand 20 minutes.  

Strain into clean glass jars with tight-fitting lids.  

This syrup is a great substitute in recipes calling for corn syrup or anywhere you struggle to dissolve granulated sugar (substitute by weight).  Although we can get local honey, it's available unpredictably, so one of the nice things about this syrup that it's reminiscent of honey in taste and density, and can be used similarly.

The syrup just before straining.  When Fefe Noir was picking the clover, she promised the bees buzzing around that she had planted at least one flower for each one she picked.  Proof in background.  


On finding and harvesting the flowers.  

Red clover.

All the flowers for this recipe grow in meadows, pastures, clearings, forest edges and other open areas.  Clover will start flowering before the roses, but just be patient, the clover will flower for weeks or months so there's no hurry.  Once the rose starts to flower, you are in a bit more of a rush, but you should have at least a couple of weeks to get some. 

White clover (center).
Both the clovers have characteristic 3-leaflet leaves and both have pale triangular markings on the leaf.  White clover has a rounder leaf; red clover has a longer leaf.  Both have dense, round flower heads: red clover blossoms are larger and pink; white clover blossoms are relatively small and white with a slight pink tinge at the base.  In the unlikely event you don't know what clover looks like, see the photos to the left.

Choose full, round blossoms where the lower exterior flowers are still fresh (not yet browning).  

Wild rose.
Wild rose is a thorny or bristly shrub, depending on the species... also depending which species you have locally, the leaves are composed of 5-9 toothed leaflets with opposite arrangement.  In all cases, the flower ranges from light to deep pink with 5 wide showy petals.  

When collecting your rose petals, one rose provides all you need.  Literally stop to smell the roses: the more fragrant the flower, the better it will do in this recipe.
Harvest the blossoms and petals all the same day you plan to make the syrup.  That is, pick your flowers then go straight home to make it.  


Hey... where did this cat come from?

You Be the Bee:  Clover


  1. Another wonderful post and I am most DEFINATELY doing my bit for planting them everywhere. I actually dug a large red clover up from the road verge to plant here :)

    1. Thanks theroadtoserendipity! I might try transplanting some into the holes my helpful dogs have created for me:)


Tell us what you think!