The bright, sunny blossoms of the forsythia are a sure sign that Spring has arrived. They provide a welcome splash of color after the long winter, & a reliable food source for early emerging bees as well. While most people are familiar with this common neighborhood harbinger of Spring, many do not realize it is a powerful herbal ally. Widely used in Chinese medicine to treat inflammatory diseases & lung ailments such as pneumonia, flu, & bronchitis, forsythia is actually one of three key ingredients in a treatment, Shuang Huang Lian, being widely used in the Chinese COVID-19 outbreak. Forsythia is also excellent for treating boils & acne, along with tightness & redness of the skin. Furthermore, those beautiful blossoms are edible & make lovely syrups, honeys, & jellies, adding an enchanting, golden hue to each! Their flavor is unique, giving you equal parts floral & herbaceous with both sweet & slightly-bitter notes -- It tastes like sunshine!
One particularly delicious way to enjoy forsythia is in the following jelly recipe, where I pair that sunshine-flavor with honey & vanilla. The resultant jelly is a beautiful, golden color accented with the tiny, black specks of vanilla seeds throughout that somehow makes me think of bees! You can mix up the sweeteners for this if you choose: all honey, all sugar, or a combo of honey & sugar. Your cooking times will change depending on your choice, as honey jellies take longer to thicken. I love the way the honey compliments the flavor of the forsythia & think it is always a good idea to cut back on refined sugar when possible, so I tend to lean all honey with mine.
Hop on out & gather some blossoms to give it a go! As always, be sure to gather flowers only from shrubs you are sure have not been treated with pesticides. Picking your flowers is super easy as they emerge first on the shrubs, so you can forage a bunch of flowers quickly without having to pick through & discard leaves after. I find gathering brings on an almost meditative state, & use it as an excuse to simply enjoy the return of nicer weather & pre-black fly season outdoors!
Forsythia Vanilla-Bean Jelly
Sort your blossoms, taking care to remove any hitchhiking bugs; there is no need to remove their green bases, though some people do. Removing the bases will boost the floral aspect of the flavor, while leaving them gives the herbaceous/floral balance I mentioned earlier. Pop your flowers in a colander & give them a good rinse. Add your forsythia & 4 cups of water to a pot & bring to a full boil, stirring occasionally. You will notice the flowers begin to darken & lose their color to the liquid. Boil for 3-5 minutes, then ladle liquid-petals-&-all into a large mason jar. Allow to cool completely, then cap & set aside to steep overnight.
Strain off your liquid the next day with a fine strainer or cheesecloth. I usually double starin mine to ensure all plant material is removed. You can compost or toss out the petals at this point. You should have about 4 cups of dark yellow liquid. Prepare your jelly jars & have them at the ready. Add 3 TBS fresh lemon juice & your pectin to your ‘forsythia tea’ in a heavy pot.
Split your vanilla bean/s & scrape the seeds out, adding them to the mixture. Bring this mixture to a boil, stirring occasionally. Once at full boil, add the honey/sugar/combo, stir to combine until fully dissolved. Bring this mixture back to a full, rolling boil & cook until glossy & thick: all honey: about 15-20 minutes, half honey-half sugar: 10-15 minutes or so, all sugar: about 5-10 minutes. Ladle the jelly into jars leaving ¼” head space & set aside to cool completely or process for 10 minutes in a canner water bath if you intend to store it --
And there you have it! Forsythia Vanilla-Bean Jelly!
Enjoy it with chevre on crusty bread [& sprinkled with chopped hazelnuts if you are feeling sassy] or use it to top pancakes, waffles, & vanilla ice cream.
Or just eat it with toast & butter, you know, no judgement.
Let its sunshine-flavor bring a smile to your face.
I hope you enjoy this recipe. Keep your eyes peeled for some very special skin-care products I am whipping up that will also feature forsythia coming soon… Until next time--Take care!
My husband & I were blessed with 2 beautiful girls. When I was diagnosed with MS, I couldn't keep up the pace working retail. We decided on a simpler life, built a cabin in the woods, & moved to mid-coast Maine