Rachel Lambert: forager, author, guide

Crystallising Wild Flowers

Crystallised primroses and violets for a wild, foraged dessert

Crystallised flowers and petals are an attractive way to preserve flowers out of season, or prolong their use in season. Flowers candied in this way can last well for several months. This traditional method is a little fiddly and detailed, which suits some people. I find the effect is worth it, but a session once a year is enough for me!

Wild food recipe from forager Rachel Lambert

Which flowers are best to crystallise?

Only use edible flowers and ones that are in abundance, never rare nor sparse ones. Flowers are an important part of many plants’ reproductive system, so only pick what you need. In my environmental policy I suggest never picking more than 30% of a plant, and with flowers 10% or less is more appropriate.

Suitable flowers include but are not exclusive to; violets, primroses, apple blossoms, mint flowers, lilac flowers, gorse flowers and rose petals. This works well with flowers that aren’t too small nor too big. Though a variety of shapes and sizes can also look really effective on top of a cake, for example.

I also have plenty more recipes for gorse flowers, rose petals and violets.

A sculptured-shaped violet from a wild food foraging course

My favourites flowers for crystallising

Are sweet violets and primroses. Violets because they’re easy to paint (see below) the colour is fantastic and the flavour so violety (floral and like violet sweets, if you’ve never had them). Primroses because they’ve been used for hundreds of years in this way and I’m the kind of person who likes traditions. They are rather delicate though - I find the petals break more easily and the colour and flavour is more subtle. My preference would be to use primroses unadulterated - just as as raw, pure flower decorations or popped straight into my mouth. 

You’ll need;

  • Edible flowers or flower petals
  • A small, clean paint brush (the right size to get into all the nooks and crannies of a flower’s anatomy)
  • Fresh egg white
  • Really dry sugar (see below), I prefer to use golden caster sugar
  • A warm place to dry the flowers
  • Time and patience
Sugar-coating wild violets to preserve them, with a professional forager

How to dry sugar

Darina Allen suggests warming the sugar first to ensure it’s completely dry. This isn’t essential, but it will help ensure your flowers dry well and don’t go soggy. I warmed mine, it’s easy to do and reassuring. Just preheat the oven to 275F/140C/fan 120C and sieve the sugar into a baking tray. Warm for 30 minutes.

How to crystallise foraged primrose flowers at home

How to crystallise flowers

Check the flowers over and brush off any dirt or debris. Some people prefer to wash them and pat them dry, though I avoid this if I can, as it also removes some of the flowers’ scent and you then have wet flowers to dry. 

Loosen the egg white in a small bowl, use your paint brush to coat each flower with a thin layer of egg white. Some advice to place the flowers in a salad spinner at this point, to spin off the excess egg white. I find that a bit harsh for delicate flowers! Just paint lightly and be sure you coat every crevice. Pour a little of the sugar over the flower or petal until it has a layer of sugariness. Place on a plate, board or clean/sry surface. Continue with all the flowers. Leave in a dry place overnight or until crisp to touch. I dry mine on top of a radiator. 

Store in a clean, sealed jar. Darina Allen stores hers in a pottery jar or tin box interleaved with silicone paper. I just store mine in an airtight jar or clean container.

Want to know more? Why not take a look at my;

Crystallised wild violets collected on a foraging course

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