Save Your Honeysuckle

Finally it stopped raining long enough to start to smell the honeysuckle. Along with the linden trees, I’d vouch any day for June being the best smelling time of year. honeysuckle2Unfortunately, it’s also one of the most allergenic times, and, along with the abrupt switch to hot weather, it’s not at all uncommon for immune systems to go haywire. Heat-related malaise, headaches, skin reactions, eye redness and infections, sore throats, UTIs, nausea, fever and food poisoning are just some lovely examples. If you’re prone to such early summer ickiness,  it’s time to start collecting some honeysuckle blossoms now.

honeysuckle3In Chinese Medicine, honeysuckle is sweet and cooling. It’s primary use in herbal formulas is to clear heat toxins, not so unlike its Western reputation as an antibacterial and anti-inflammatory agent. Not only can honeysuckle be used to treat all of the above symptoms, it’s as delicious as candy, as anyone whose ever taken the time to pull off a flower and lick the sweet drop of nectar from the stamen will well know.  So it’s hardly a punishment to have some tea around, is it? honeysuckle4

Honeysuckle Iced Tea

Honeysuckle blossoms can be used fresh, dried or frozen, but in any case, be sure to remove all green parts from the flowers or the tea will taste bitter and not be so good for you. It stores quite well, so it’s worth collecting gobs of  flowers just to have on hand. To dry, lay the flowers out on a wire screen or something with holes large enough to allow air to circulate but not allow the blossoms to fall through. Air dry for 2-3 days, then pack up and store in the freezer for up to 1 year. honeysuckle

The optional addition of white tea and sweetener isn’t really for medicinal purposes, but it makes this the perfect unusual iced tea to impress all your locavore friends. If you’re making this because you feel sick, just put a tablespoon of blossoms in a coffee mug, add boiling water and allow to steep for 10 minutes before drinking. 

  • 1 cup fresh honeysuckle blossoms (that’s 1/2-2/3 cup dry, depending on how dry they are)- make sure to collect them from an area that hasn’t been sprayed with pesticides.
  • 1/2 gallon water
  • 6 bags white tea (optional)
  • 1/2 cup organic cane sugar, honey or a Tb fresh stevia leaves (optional)

Place the honeysuckle blossoms (cleaned of all their green bits) in a large bowl or pitcher. Add the tea bags and stevia leaves if using. Bring the water to a boil and pour over the blossoms. Cover and allow to steep 10 minutes.

Strain the liquid into a pitcher, add sugar or honey if using, stir, and refrigerate until cold. Serve over ice with a sprig of mint (on a very hot summer day, of course).

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