Monday, March 8, 2021

The journey to a sandwich

Snowbell flowers

In mid-May of 2019 I met a tree crowded with bees and panicles of fragrant flowers. Each bloom looked a lot like those of Styrax japonica (snowbell), but I had never seen them arranged like this, or smelled that intoxicating perfume. It was Styrax obassia, fragrant snowbell.  

Styrax flowers

I like to catch scents and flavors. And so after as much research as possible, I collected some of the flowers and decided to preserve them in the form of vinegar, fermented from scratch. Just flowers, water, sugar, and time. 

Styrax vinegar testing pH

After the first fizzing happened, and the flowers were strained out, I left the sweet, fragrant liquid in loosely covered jars to invite the lactobacter to do their work. They did, in a remarkably short time. The sweet ferment turned into a deeply fruity and complex vinegar in just four weeks. I bottled it.

Snowbell vinegar shrub

It is one of the best vinegars I have ever made, good enough to sip, which I did. Here it is in September 2020, with a dash of baby pine cone syrup, a lemon slice, and chilled sparkling water. Because of their depth of flavor (good) vinegars are ideal and healthy mixers if you don't want to drink alcohol.

Carrots in vinegar

Fast forward to last Saturday, as I prepared a forage picnic for 10 walkers. Carrots quick-pickled in the last of the fragrant snowbell vinegar. Destined for Wonder rolls - slices of crustless Wonder bread spread with chickweed and field garlic mayonnaise, and stuffed with the carrots, black radish and garlic chive flowers (I could write a treatise on my reason for making these with That Bread but we don't have time right now).

Forage picnic in containers

There they are, top left. Clockwise from there, watercress tartlets, black currant and juniper hand pies, and quails' eggs with a ramp leaf salt for dipping.

So if you'd like a sandwich in 2023, you'd better plan ahead. 

The next walk is What's that Bud? This Wednesday, with drinks and canap├ęs, on a pretty-weather day in Prospect Park.

Book Here.



  1. This is slow food taken to an entirely new level! So often when I read your posts I add new plants to my 'wanted' list. I have a big garden (5000 sqm) so luckily space isn't an issue, but finding these treasures sometimes is. Still chasing spicebush! But styrax obassia is available. Hurray! Starting to plan my 2030 sandwich now.

    1. Ha! I am so glad you found one - it is really gorgeous, and bumble bees are crazy about it. No spicebush online?

  2. I had to come back to see your Styrax vinegar again. And your Wonder Bread rolls.

  3. Needed the laugh. Me to HQ:"Honey, Marie met a tree"...couldnt get past the first line...nope, still can't add anything intelligent.


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