500 Year Vision

Take pleasure from walking lightly on this Earth

Homemade Jewel Syrup & Pink Lemonade


Balsam in the garden

Sometimes we would sneak into the house soaked to the skin; less often we would be caught wet handed, or a pile of damp clothing soaking into the bedroom carpet would give us away.  The fact was that the outright ban on playing by the Beck – our parents didn’t know enough to be specific – no ‘coasteering’ along the banks of the ravine; no setting of man-traps in the water – was often, even regularly, contravened, and we were rarely caught.  Short of ‘grounding’ the whole gang of us, there was little our collective parents could do. Had they formed some kind of parents’ union for Station Road they may have gained more bargaining power; this was never suggested.

A friend from school told me that two children had drowned in the water some years before, and that if you were lucky you could visit the dark pooling water in the forest, close enough that you could hear the sea, and watch their ghosts acting out the traumatic last moments over and over again. But that was all the way down the ancient sea cut by Scalby Mills – at least a mile away, and before we were even born, so we were not at all discouraged from our misadventures by this tale of woe.

The smell of Himalayan Balsam, by which name I didn’t know it at the time, is integrally linked to my memory of growing up in a small Yorkshire village, and especially of late summer, school threatening, when it grew prolifically in the secretive spots we preferred. As you brush by the chandelier droplet shaped seed pod, it explodes throwing seeds an impressive distance, great entertainment for those who have homework to be getting on with.

Though in itself beautiful, Himalayan Balsam or Jewel Weed is an invasive species in these parts. It is voracious, very attractive to bees and all parts of the plant are inedible apart from the flowers and seeds – luckily if you eat these you’ll dent potential regrowth for future years. We now have a growing supply of it in an untended corner of the garden and it is time to take it on.

Why the name jewel weed? Maybe because of the droplet shaped seed pods, or maybe because of the vibrant colours of the petals.

Never wanting to let anything go to waste I did a little research and the following  recipe is the best I found: a beautifully coloured syrup which can be used to decorate cakes, dilute as cordial or simply spread on toast; with a side order of delicious lemonade. The petals have a very subtle flavour but the colour they impart is almost magical.

100 g Himalayan Balsam (Jewel Weed) flowers

50g water

250g sugar

1 lemon

1 lime

In a pan mix the sugar, water, lemon and lime juice & boil for a few minutes until the sugar dissolves into a clear syrup. Chop up the lemon and lime skins and keep to one side. Add the petals to the syrup and boil for twenty minutes.

Wash a jar and heat in a microwave for a minute allowing the jar to be sterilised by the water turning to steam. The high sugar content of the syrup will mean that it doesn’t need to be kept refrigerated, however you don’t want blooming on the jar from yeast or spore contamination.  Warming the jar also means that it won’t be cracked by the hot syrup being added to it.

The syrup will turn a dark pink as the petals give out their colour. When the size of the bubbles begins to grow the syrup is nearly ready. To test it put a drop on a cold plate and leave for a minute before pushing a spoon through it. If a clear line can be made on the plate, the syrup is of a good spreading consistency. Sieve the syrup into the warmed jar and leave to cool.

The syrupy petals can now be returned to the pan. Immediately put hot water through the empty sieve into the pan to wash off as much syrup as possible. Finally add the chopped lemon and lime skins. The amount of water you add depends purely on how sweet you want the lemonade to be.  Bring the mixture to the boil then cover and leave to cool. As will all home made lemonade, this needs to be kept in a fridge and used within a couple of days.




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