Green Grow the Lilacs

April 5, 2021

Lilacs in dooryards

Holding quiet conversations

with an early moon;

Lilacs watching a deserted house

Settling sideways

Into the grass of

An old road;

Lilacs, wind-beaten, staggering

Under a lopsided

Shock of bloom.

 

-from ‘Lilacs’

by Amy Lowell

 

 

It’s April which means lilac season is almost here!

(10 points for anyone who knows what landmark Broadway musical I am referencing in the title!)

 

Another one of my fave flowers, lilacs hold a special place in my heart. They are irresistible, luscious and have an intoxicating scent and when in season, I use them in almost everything. I can’t get enough of them, especially the deep purple ones.

 

 

Growing up in the Midwest, they are a staple in practically everyone’s garden including our own. I will always associate lilacs with my grandmother since her yard was full of them along with lily of the valley, blooming simultaneously in great profusion.

Sadly lilacs have a very short season, lasting perhaps 2-3 weeks. But luckily for us, we are able to get them for a longer period of time at the flower market since they bring them in from different areas and elevations.

 

 

Lilacs as Cut Flowers

 

If you are like me, I am sure you have experienced cutting lilacs from the garden only to have them wilt an hour or two after putting them in a vase. Never fear, there are ways to make them last longer! While they may not last as long as other flowers, they are definitely worth having in the house.

Fill a bucket half full of fresh, cool water, and have it at hand as you cut blooms. Pick flowers in the cool of the morning or evening. Lilacs open very little after harvest, so choose stems that have at least three-quarters of the flowers open. Next, remove all of the leaves so the plant isn’t putting its effort into keeping the leaves hydrated. Place stems in the water. Leave the bucket in a cool, dark place and allow the flowers to take up water for at least an hour.

Next, using heavy clippers, recut the stem ends, then slice vertically up the stem 1-2 inches. Grasp one side of the sliced stem and twist backward. Immediately place the cut stems back into the bucket of water.  Allow the stems to take up more water in a cool, dark place for another one to two hours. The lilacs will then be ready for arranging.

I know some people will tell you to pound the ends of the stems with a hammer to help them absorb more water but it can damage them in the process. I find that breaking the stem, instead of using a knife or pruning shears when arranging can help them drink better.

 

Lilac’s History Is Rooted In Greek Mythology

For the ancient Greeks, lilacs were an integral part of the story of Pan, the god of forests and fields. It was said that Pan was in love with a nymph named Syringa. As he was chasing her through the forest one day, she turned herself into a lilac shrub to disguise herself because she was afraid of him. Pan found the shrub and used part of it to create the first panpipe. Syringa’s name comes from the Greek word for pipe, “syrinks"—and that's where the lilac’s scientific name, Syringa, came from.

Lilac Fun facts

~ Lilacs are In the same family as the Olive Tree

~ Purple lilacs are most fragrant on a sunny, warm day.

~ Some varieties can withstand temperatures as low as -60 degrees and live to be over100 years old.

~ The flowers are edible and great in cocktails, You can also make wine out of them! Who knew?!

Check out this lilac cocktail

https://sugarandcharm.com/lilac-pisco-cocktail

 

~ Make lilac sugar by mixing lilac petals and white sugar to use for tea or baking. Lilac petals can be candied or crystallized for use in decorating desserts. You can also make lilac jelly, lilac infused syrups, lilac honey or lilac ice cream.

~ The inability to recognize lilac scent can predict Alzheimer’s disease. 

~ When used in aromatherapy, it is said the smell helps with relaxation and feelings of depression.

There are about 25 species of lilacs and they are native to  southeastern Europe to eastern Asia. European colonists first brought them to North America in the 1750s.

They come in a variety of purples, pinks, white, two-toned and even yellow!

 

The lilac was Thomas Jefferson’s favorite flower and both he and George Washington grew them in their gardens.

 

I hope you make a point of enjoying these gorgeous flowers this spring while you can. And while you are at it, make yourself some jelly!

 

Lilac Jelly Recipe

Yield: 4cups 
INGREDIENTS
·        2 cups packed lilac blossoms, no leaves, no stems
·        2 1/2cups boiling water
·        1/4 cup lemon juice
·        4 cups sugar
·        One box Sure-jell powdered pectin (1.75 oz, or just over 4 tablespoons pectin)
INSTRUCTIONS
First, infuse the blossoms in the water to make a “lilac tea”.
Place the blossoms in a heat resistant container and pour the boiling water over. Allow them to steep 8 hours or overnight.
When ready to can, sterilize four 8-ounce jars or eight 4 ounce jars, keep hot. Heat lids and rings in hot water, keep warm but not boiling. Fill water bath canner and bring to boil.
Strain the flowers out of the water. Squeeze dry. You should have 2 1/4 cup of lilac infused water. Add more water if needed.
Place the flower infusion, lemon juice, and pectin in a large heavy bottom pot. Bring to a rolling boil.
Add sugar all at once, return to boil. Boil for one minute, stirring constantly. Skim foam if needed. Remove from heat.
Ladle jam into hot, sterilized jars leaving 1/4″ headspace. Wipe rims clean and screw on the lids.
Process for 10 minutes in water bath canner (add 1 minute for every 1,000 feet above sea level).
Remove jars from canner and allow to rest until cool. (I prefer overnight.) Remove rings, wipe any drips and label for storage.
Makes around 4 half pint jars or 8 – 4 ounce jars.
Helpful Hint: By letting the strained liquid sit in the refrigerator overnight, and then pouring  it off carefully, it will allow some of the particles to settle out of the infusion, resulting in a clearer jelly.
 

*Green Grow the Lilacs by Lynn Riggs, was the play that Roger's & Hammerstein's Oklahoma! was based upon.