“Know the ways of the ones who take care of you, so that you may take care of them.
Introduce yourself. Be accountable as the one who comes asking for life. Ask permission before taking. Abide by the answer.
Never take the first. Never take the last. Take only what you need.
Take only that which is given.
Never take more than half. Leave some for others. Harvest in a way that minimizes harm.
Use it respectfully. Never waste what you have taken. Share.
Give thanks for what you have been given.
Give a gift, in reciprocity for what you have taken.
Sustain the ones who sustain you and the earth will last forever.”
The first time I saw our house the lilac tree in the front yard was in full bloom. I noticed her scent before the blooms reaching toward the sun overwhelmed me. We walked through a soft cloud of perfume before we entered the front door and I truly believe that that tree is a big reason why tears filled my eyes and I knew this was our home.
The previous owner was a masterful gardener. From what the neighbors have told me she spent many hours, almost daily, outside tending to her masterpiece. In the letter I wrote to her attempting to woo her to us in a very crowded market in Seattle, I thanked her for the care she put into the garden and I promised to do my best to continue to care for and nurture the garden we hoped to inherit.
I’ve watched the lilac tree bloom for three seasons now. I’ve nervously pruned the branches not knowing exactly what I was doing, hoping to encourage new growth and trim off the old. In early spring I watch the buds emerge and I count down the days until the flowers bloom with a giddiness often witnessed in my children before the holidays. The buds signal the end of a long, cold season. They remind us of the cyclical way of things; how the earth moves and knows just what to do even when we attempt to feel a sense of control and end up feeling lost. It’s a reminder that even in the harried moments of our day-to-day there is a constant turning, an ever present schedule that exists even when we don’t.
In years past I’ve simply brought in the blooms to scent the house and bring the cheeriness of the vibrant purple hue to the dining table. This year I wanted to harness that intoxicating perfume that charmed us to this home. I wanted to see the blooms as art and ingredient and continue to use this gift throughout the season.
I’ve known that lilacs are edible for a couple years but as I’ve fallen deeper in love with wild ingredients I have gotten more and more curious and adventurous. So this year I packed some flowers in sugar, infused them into honey and dried others along with nettles and spruce for a fragrant and medicinal tea. The tea became gifts as I’ve been practicing reciprocity thanks to the beautiful book, Braiding Sweetgrass quoted above, and the honey will be a daily sweet reminder of lilac season.
Out my window the lilacs are gone. Their blooms are now crisp and brown. I’m fighting the feeling akin to FOMO (Fear Of Missing Out). Did I enjoy them enough? Did I thank them enough? Did I breathe in that sweet perfume enough?
It was enough. And they will be back next year.
Today’s post is not necessarily a recipe, although I do hope you have the opportunity to enjoy lilac infused honey, but more than that I hope it serves as a reminder to keep your eyes open and remember the gifts the earth gives. They are given for us to enjoy with the responsibility of reciprocity and nurturing.
1/2 cup lilac flowers
2 cups light honey (such as wildflower)
Add the honey to an airtight jar. Cover and store in a cool place for 2 to 3 weeks. Strain out the flowers.
Use in tea, over ice cream, in desserts or over fresh strawberries with mascarpone.