While blogger and book author Alyson Brown has southern roots, she now calls Bend, Ore., her home. Brown has an affinity for edible flowers, experimenting with beautiful blooms every chance she gets.
“My love of flowers can all be credited to my son. When he was very little, he was obsessed with picking flowers,” says Brown. “I quickly decided that I needed to educate myself on flowers so that I knew if there were any that could harm him. Along the way, we discovered that while yes, there were poisonous flowers, there were also many more edible and medicinal ones.”
With that, Brown started to wonder how she could infuse more flowers into her everyday life, from the skincare she used and the food she ate, to the cocktails she was making.
A passion for mixology
Brown credits her love for cooking for her interest and passion for mixology. “I absolutely love cooking. And furthermore, I really love coming up with my own recipes,” she says. And those two passions have come together with her company and blog, Wild Folk Flower Apothecary, along with her book, released in August 2021, “The Flower-Infused Cocktail.”
“I cue into flavor notes and ingredients as though I can imagine what things would taste like together,” she says. “It’s such a thrill to create things to delight the taste buds. And there’s nothing better than a well-built cocktail.”
Some of her favorite options for edible flowers? Elderflowers and lilacs top the list.
“Elderflowers will always be my muse. The folklore tied to them is so fascinating. It’s said that under the umbrella of the elderflower tree, one can get lost in their thoughts,” she says. “Additionally, the elder was believed to keep evil spirits from entering the house. And when it comes to flavor, the blossoms have a citrusy honey-like flavor that is unparalleled.”
Where to find edible flowers
Of course, Brown isn’t just using random flowers when coming up with a new cocktail recipe. She’s only using edible flowers from certain sources, and it’s important to know the difference. Brown says you can often find edible flowers in specialty grocery stores near the herbs. You may also find them at farmer’s markets as vendors sell them with their fruits and vegetables. You can also grow them yourself or order blooms from a specialty shop. “Be sure never to eat flowers that have been grown as display flowers as most often they have been treated with pesticides and not considered food grade,” she advises.
While many flowers are stunning, they can make you very sick or cause death if ingested. “I have listed 63 edible flowers in my book, and while there are many more, please do your research and stick with reputable sources,” she says. “Working with flowers is so rewarding and soon enough, you’ll be seeking out ways to incorporate flowers into everything.”
Ready to try your hand at whipping up a flower-infused cocktail? This vibrant and refreshing drink is the perfect kick-off to spring.
1 1/2 oz Plantation 3 Star white rum
1/2 oz Smith & Cross rum
3/4 oz lime juice
3/4 oz honeydew fennel cordial (recipe follows)
Add white rum, pot still rum, lime juice and honeydew fennel cordial to a shaker with ice, and shake until chilled. Strain into a chilled glass and mist with absinthe. Garnish with a fennel flower.
HONEYDEW FENNEL CORDIAL
1 cup sugar
1 cup water
1 honeydew melon, peeled and chopped
1/2 cup fresh fennel blossoms
Combine sugar and honeydew in a bowl and stir until the sugar completely covers the fruit. Refrigerate overnight. Pour the honeydew and any juices released into a pot with water, and bring to a gentle simmer over medium heat. Once the sugar has dissolved completely, remove from the heat. Add the fennel blossoms, cover and steep for 20 minutes. Strain the solids and cool completely before using. Store in the refrigerator for up to one week.