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Where we live right now is not my idea of a homestead. We’re in the suburbs, next to a major highway on 1/3 of an acre of compacted clay. We’ve had to truck in top soil to even grow grass. But one of the beautiful things about our current home is the carpet of weeds that great us every Spring.
The carpet of purple dead nettle, henbit and grape hyacinth are a welcome, refreshing sight after a long, cold Winter. They’re also a tasty buffet for hungry bees and other pollinators, so we try to wait as long as possible before mowing.
Grape hyacinth aka “muscari” is a hotly debated weed in the gardening forums (if you cant believe that!). Some garden enthusiasts love it’s cheery color, it’s easy reproduction and how, as a weed, it usually dies off before it can choke out more desirable plants. In fact, it’s one of the only weeds I can think of that you can actually buy the bulbs and that nurseries grow to sell.
If you’re growing a flower garden for pollinators, I recommend buying yourself a set of grape hyacinth bulbs. You’ll only need a small batch, as they…pardon the pun…grow like weeds.
Harvesting these happy little flowers is a great project for little hands. When you grasp the stalk lightly below the flowers, and gently pull upwards, they sort of pop into your hands and try to jump away.
The first nice day we had this year, Baby Jack (who is not so much of a baby anymore!) went out and collected grape hyacinth flowers. You should try to harvest them in the early morning so that they retain more of their unique flavor and scent.
I have seen recipes for wild violet lemonade but couldn’t find anything online for a new way to use grape hyacinth. The bulbs can make you sick, but I still couldn’t find any recipes to use the delicious, grape-y smelling flowers. Instead, I followed a violet lemonade recipe, but used these instead with awesome results!
If you’re lucky enough to have them growing as a weed, or have planted them yourself, harvest a batch – a cup or two – while leaving plenty for the bees. Don’t fret too much about any stem parts or grass getting mixed into your flowers, you’ll strain out all the plant material.
Pour them into a mason jar or other glass conainter and cover with boiling water. Let sit for an hour or two to infuse the water with the essence of the flowers.
Then strain the flowers from the water. The resulting water is a deep purple/dark blue and just gorgeous.
Mix the extract with equal parts of sugar and warm over a stove top to create a grape hyacinth simple syrup. This could be added to teas or sherbets or added to iced tea instead of lemonade. The flavor is distinct and unique. The grape hyacinth lends a floral, earthy flavor with a hint of grape flavoring.
To make the lemonade however:
- 2/3 cup grape hyacinth syrup
- 1 1/2 cup water
- 2 Tbsp lemon juice
A note on this recipe: this is only a starting point. It make a very strong, very sweet lemonade, but you can always add more water or more lemon juice to match your family’s preferences. In my house, we usually fill a glass with 3/4 water, and then add a splash of lemonade. In that case, this recipe works great. If your family drinks straight lemonade, you can doctor the recipe as you see fit. I figure you can always add water or lemon juice, but you can’t take it away!
The lemon juice mixing with the grape hyacinth syrup makes this gorgeous neon pink color, without the gross fake chemicals. It’s the perfect drink to herald in the new Spring!
Does grape hyacinth grow wild where you are?