Spring is a time of plenty in the upper South and Midwest. Big bluegills and crappies have moved up shallow and are eager to bite, turkey seasons are in full swing, our bees are gearing back up for honey production after the long winter, and morel mushrooms are popping up for those lucky souls who know where to find them.
And one of my favorite trees is in bloom throughout the woods and along the field edges. The eastern redbud (Cercis canadensis) decorates our world this time of year with its showy pink and purple blooms that yield an early splash of color to a winter dreary landscape not yet leafed out in spring radiance.
Besides being pretty, the blooms, and later on the seed pods, are tasty additions to the forager’s menu this time of year. We’ve made jelly and syrup from the blossoms, and added them to poached panfish in fresh spring rolls, but sometimes the simplest presentations are the best.
This easy tea is light, refreshing, floral, and slightly fruity, and it doesn’t take long to make. As a bonus, you only need about 2 cups of flowers for a 2-quart pitcher of tea, easily just a few minutes of flower picking time. As a bonus, herbalists say that redbud blossom tea is full of vitamin C and antioxidants, making it helpful for inflammation and a boost to our immune system. To me, tea made from later, fully open flowers seems a bit tastier than that made from early, tightly closed blooms. Try them both and decide which you prefer.
2 cups redbud blossoms
2 quarts water
2/3 cup honey
Juice of 1 lemon
Start by picking the blooms from the tree. They grow in little clusters, so you can grab several in a pinch. Try to avoid as many twigs as possible, taking only the bloom. I like to give the bowl a good shake or two when I get home so that heavier sticks and bits can settle to the bottom, leaving clean flowers on top.
Transfer the flowers to a cutting board and give them a good chop. You aren’t trying to pulverize them, just open up the blooms a bit for added surface area.
Moved the chopped blooms to a pot with 2 quarts cold water. Bring the mixture to a heavy simmer or light boil. Try not to bring the water to a complete heavy boil; just cut the heat when you notice the first bubbles breaking the surface. Cut the heat, cover the pot with a lid, and steep the tea for 15 minutes.
Pour the steeped tea through a strainer into a pitcher. Discard the used blooms. You’ll notice the tea is green at first. Don’t worry — just squeeze the juice of 1 lemon into it and watch it magically turn to a light purply pink shade.
Sweeten the tea with sugar — or my choice, raw, unfiltered honey. Enjoy with a meal or just as a nice refreshing drink on a warm spring afternoon.
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