Beltane marks the first day of summer, and is representative of vitality, fertility and the energy of the sun, so its foods include luscious fruits like cherries and strawberries, green leaf, herb and flower petal salads, oat or barley cakes, dairy foods and honey. Mead, a type of honey wine, is popular, white wine, white grape juice or mead is often infused with sweet woodruff and served with strawberries to capture the essence of the season, and fruit juices and light floral teas match well too. Herbs of the season include sweet woodruff, meadowsweet, calendula, marjoram, thistle, angelica, apple, cinnamon, vanilla, rose, violet, jasmine, all-heal, cinquefoil, clover, honeysuckle, ivy, lilac, rowan and St John’s wort.
Beltane is a festival of love and romance, and roses and other flowers can be added to your food, used as a garnish or table decoration, woven into a garland for your hair or used in spells for love, which can be as simple as lighting a pink candle and making a wish or soaking in a bath filled with pink rose petals. You can also leave a little plate of nuts, berries and flowers out for the faeries, as this is another cross-quarter day when the veils are thin, and their energy can be drawn upon. Dress in long, swirling clothes with flowers in your hair and dance barefoot on the grass, soaking up the vibration of the earth and of this powerful, potent time.
Many flowers are edible, and summer is the perfect time to add some pretty petals to your recipes and strew them in salads. Some edible flowers include marigolds, nasturtiums, violets, pansies, primroses, calendulas, carnations, jasmine, sunflowers, dandelions, lemon verbena, lavender and hibiscus, as well as the flowers of sage, thyme, dill, chives, basil, coriander, bee balm (wild bergamot), sorrel, rocket and borage, plus zucchini and squash blossoms, apple blossoms and banana blossoms. Do always make sure your flowers are fresh and pesticide-free, and that they are the type you think they are, as some plants are poisonous. With some flowers, such as roses and chrysanthemums, only the petals should be consumed. For others, such as violets and nasturtiums, the whole flower can be eaten. And with others, like dandelion and calendula, you can eat the whole plant, although sometimes the petals are the tastiest part.
Flower butter: Combine 250g of butter with half a cup of chopped flower petals, and leave, covered and in a cool dry place, to stand overnight so the flavour of the flowers infuses the butter. Stir again then refrigerate. Use this pretty butter on breads, scones and muffins, and in cake, cookie and dessert recipes.
Floral Ice Cubes: Half fill an ice-cube tray with water and allow to freeze. Once frozen, place a single violet flower, apple blossom, jasmine bloom or rose petal into each ice-cube hole, top up with water and freeze again. Serve in drinks to add a sweet summery vibe and a celebratory look to the meal.
Crystallised Flowers: Beat an egg white and a few drops of water until foamy but not stiff. Using a small paintbrush, paint clean dry flowers such as violets, geraniums, pansies and rose buds with the egg white mixture, then sprinkle with super-fine sugar (use icing sugar or just blend white or raw sugar in a blender), covering the whole surface of each blossom. Leave to dry for a day or two in an airtight container, then use the gorgeous flowers to decorate cakes, ice-cream, desserts and drinks.
Rose Petal Biscuits
½ cup icing sugar
1 cup plain flour
1 tblsp lemon zest
1 tsp rose water or pure vanilla essence
Handful of rose petals (chemical free)
What to do:
Cream the butter and icing sugar, then fold in the sifted flour, lemon zest and rose water or vanilla essence. When well combined, gently stir in the rose petals. Cover the dough in plastic wrap and refrigerate for an hour or so to keep its shape while baking.
Roll out onto a floured board to around 1cm thick, and use a cookie cutter or the mouth of a glass or a jar to shape into cookies.
Place on a lightly greased cookie tray and bake in a preheated 180C oven for around 20 minutes, or until firm and golden. Cool on a wire rack then serve on a pretty floral plate.