Skip to content

Honeysuckle Simple Syrup

Recap

  1. Gather yellow honeysuckle blossoms and store for 12 hours in cool filtered water.
  2. Strain the blossoms from the water.
  3. Combine equal parts honeysuckle water:sugar in a heavy-bottom sauce pan. Cook over medium heat until sugar dissolves.
  4. Allow syrup to cool to room temperature.
  5. Bottle and store. Use in drinks, as a moistening liquid for cakes, make honeysuckle lemonade… be aware that your honeysuckle syrup may not actually outlast the season. Consider making more than you think you need.

Background

NC is a strong bio-diverse region, especially when it comes to useful plants. I’ve been interested in creating a calendar/guide for foraging through the change in seasons, and honeysuckle was one natural part of that. The ability to easily find honeysuckle on a neighborhood walk is a sign that the local ecosystem is booming with growth and that summer is closer than I may think.

The season for honeysuckle is also wildly short – only 2-3 weeks depending on the year. Harnessing the smell and flavor of honeysuckle in a treat that I can enjoy beyond that tiny window of pleasure was a puzzle I wanted to solve.

A lot of guides for making honeysuckle syrup have you harvesting the blossoms then boiling them in hot water, or making a simple syrup then boiling the blossoms in that mixture. Both these methods seem too aggressive to me – honeysuckle flowers are so delicate, and the flavor and scent from the nectar and oils are relatively volatile. I wanted to develop a method for easily capturing those smells and flavors without also having to harvest massive quantities of flowers.

Process

My first priority was finding a cluster of honeysuckle that was away from large amounts of vehicle traffic. There’s loads of honeysuckle growing in central NC on roadsides, but I wanted to avoid this honeysuckle. I wasn’t sure if it those flowers would have any exhaust pollutants that would impact the flavor, and because picking the flowers is somewhat labor intensive, I didn’t want to waste time gathering flowers that wound up being useless.

One evening during a night hike along the Ellerbee Creek Trail, I happened upon loads of honeysuckle clusters. I happened to have filtered water in my water bottle, and figured that was as good a place as any to store the blossoms until I could get back to my house.

I tasted through a few different flowers and decided that the more yellow the blossoms were, the more intense the honeysuckle flavor was – these were the flowers I prioritized picking. I didn’t want to get the ones that were too yellow, edging into the browning/decomposing phase, because I didn’t want to introduce any extra decomposing flavors (although it did make me think about some different fermented honeysuckle options that would be similar to tepache).

Once the bottle was as full as I wanted, I came home, topped the bottle off with more filtered water, then put the whole thing in the fridge until morning.

The next day I strained out the flowers and was BLOWN AWAY by how strong the water smelled. It absolutely reeked of honeysuckle. The blossoms were filtered out and set aside – I had a few ideas of things I wanted to try with them (both failed, more on that later).

I eyeballed an even amount of water:sugar for the simple syrup, cooked down the sugar, then let the mixture cool. My original plan had been to steep the blossoms in the cooled sugar syrup to try and extract as much flavor from them as possible – while this was partially effective, the blossoms also clung to the room-temperature simple syrup, and I think I ended up loosing more syrup than it was worth any extra flavor I gained.

The second thing I wanted to try with the blossoms was to dehydrate them for future purposes. They were so saturated with sugar though, that they stuck to my baking sheet and became impossible to remove without entirely destroying them. Next season, my plan is to instead pack the blossoms in granulated sugar and see what kind of a texture I get from them. I may also re-try the oven, but be very picky about what surfaces I leave the flowers on!)

End Results

The honeysuckle syrup was so delightful. It’s intoxicating and heady in how much it smells like honeysuckle; it really makes me wonder if cooking the blossoms can possibly yield the same results.

We used ours to make honeysuckle lemonade (a creation of one of my kiddos), and I enjoyed it in some blackberry tonic sodas. We also used it to soak the layers of that same kiddo’s chocolate birthday cake.

I had hiked with a 1 liter bottle of water and filled it up perhaps 75% of the way with blossoms. I ended up making about 2 cups total of simple syrup, and it barely lasted us a week. In the future, I’ll be looking at either harvesting more blossoms, or seeing ways I can add more water to the sugar syrup ratio without compromising flavor