Tuesday, May 18, 2021

Of hayfever and wild lilacs

The middle of May and the evenings stay lighter and lighter.  This is 7.38pm. The chicken on the grill has been seasoned with berbere, an East African spice mix that I first met when I waitressed at Cafe Adulis in New Haven, many years ago. The owners were Eritrean. My tips were stuffed into an envelope at home and once a month I walked several blocks and deposited them. And then I paid the rent. It was a hard time but I learned independence, met good people, and grew to love this potent blend of chiles, cinnamon and cardamom (and a few other things, too!).

Back to now. The Frenchman and I drove home from the Catskills with these bunches of feral lilac. They smelled wonderful and also gave us the worst hayfever attacks we have ever experienced. So they were banished to the stone table. But everything is in bloom - meaning trees and grasses - and producing pollen, and out on the terrace we can hear people sneezing, like a spring percussion.

The lilac flowers are being turned into a May wine to be served at a forage picnic this weekend (a bachelorette walk for a group of friends), and the rest will be the finishing, perfumed touch for a May vermouth. All the flavors of May, minus the sneezes.



NYBG, 27 May - Spring Edible Plant Walk

Alley Pond Park, 23 June - Midsummer Edible Plant Stroll


  1. Feral lilacs! I wish I could locate some (since I have no allergies and love lilacs but have insufficient sun in my garden to support more than one bush). Maybe I'll go on a hunt for abandoned farmsteads (but given the price of land, I doubt there are many in the Willamette Valley). My grandparents' homestead in Alberta, where my grandmother had lovely lilacs on the sheltered side of the house, was abandoned decades ago. I wonder if those lilacs have survived....Hoping your allergy attacks have abated, Leslie

    1. It would be interesting to visit the Alberta ones to see if they are still there!

  2. Gretchen NiendorffMay 19, 2021 at 1:54 PM

    What is your recipe for May wine, please.?

    1. It's in the black locust chapter of Forage, Harvest, Feast - A Wild-Inspired Cuisine.

  3. Gretchen NiendorffMay 19, 2021 at 2:50 PM

    Oh good. I have it!


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