Lilacs have as long a history as the histories of roses and tulips. The lilac plant belongs to the same family as the olive. According to Greek mythology, this flowering plant originated from a nymph who turned herself into a lilac bush to escape the attention of Pan. The first varieties of lilac came from Europe and Asia and were first introduced to Vienna in the 16th century. They were afterward brought to the new world by colonists who wanted flowers that reminded them of their homes in Europe. Lilacs could be found all over the eastern side of North America by the time the revolutionary war was fought. Both George Washington and Thomas Jefferson mention planting them in their writings.
Today, there are more than 20 different lilac species. You can find lilac growing wild in abandoned lots and old homesteads.
Lilac flavor profile
Lilac’s flavor is sweetly floral with faint citrus notes; they give a light lemony flavor when used to flavor food. There are also mild bitter notes if you eat the petals fresh, along with a slight astringency. The strong floral flavor may make the flower best for light garnishes, rather than as the center of a dish.
Health benefits of lilac
Lilac petals are not just flavorful, they have health benefits as well. Consider the following nutritional benefits that you can get by adding them to your diet:
- Carotenoids: This is a group of compounds that can improve your health in a number of different ways and which are responsible for the color of lilac petals. You can find them in many other flowering plants.
- Lutein: Lutein is one of the key pigments and has been shown to have many important health benefits. The lutein in flowers is said to be present in a rare form that you will not get from many foods.
Lilac may be used to treat or prevent illnesses and health issues such as:
- Intestinal parasites: Practitioners of folk medicine at one time used lilac to help rid the body of intestinal worms.
- Fevers: Lilac is used in some parts of the world as a herbal medicine for reducing fevers.
- Recurring disease: Examples of the types of recurring disease that have historically been treated with lilac include kidney disease and malaria. Lilac was used before the discovery of quinine’s effectiveness against malaria.
- Eye problems: The lutein in lilac petals may help to reduce the likelihood of developing cataracts. It may also be useful for preventing macular degeneration.
Common uses of lilac
Among the most common uses for lilac is its use in flavoring lilac simple syrup. Lilac syrup can be used in cocktails and for pouring over your waffles. Honey can be flavored with lilacs in much the same way and you can use it just as you would use regular honey. Lilac petals may also be used to make lilac sugar; the process involves grinding the petals in with sugar crystals using a mortar and pestle. Lilac blooms can be made into fritters similar to elderflower fritters. Lilac’s flavor also works with a variety of pastries and may be used in meringues, tarts and cakes.