Every year I wait for the sweet smell of lilacs to announce the arrival of real spring. While they only bloom for a few short weeks, their intoxicating scent fills the air and lifts my spirits after a long Vermont winter. Though I’d plant them just for their beauty, there’s more to lilacs than just their scent.
Did you know that lilacs are edible too?
For most of the year, lilac bushes are pretty boring. Just bland greenery on woody stems, and nothing to write home about. Why then, do you find them on just about every Vermont homestead?
For two weeks every spring these beauties explode with color, and the most divine scent I’ve found this far north. In a good year, they’ll bloom around mid-May, right as spring’s finally arriving here in the north country.
Occasionally, you can even find patches of lilacs in the woods, and if you look closely you’ll see an old stone foundation where a house once stood. They managed to outlive those that planted them, as well as the house they lived in, and they still smell sweet even with no one around to find them but the bees.
I’d plant lilacs just for those magical two weeks, and the way their scent fills the air. But believe it or not, they have one more gift to offer…lilacs are edible!
Edible Lilac Recipes
Can I Eat Lilacs? Yes, just let me count the ways!
The simplest way to enjoy lilacs is as an infusion of the flowers for a lilac sugar. The sugar can then be used in recipes to add lilac flavor to baked goods.
This also works with a lilac simple syrup which is just a liquid form of the same thing that’s perfect for making cocktails. For my money though, I think lilac infused honey sounds the best.
Lilac Ice Cream, Custards, Pudding, and More
As temps start to warm up in the spring, I start planning ahead by making homemade ice cream. The sweet floral flavor of lilacs translates beautifully into an ice cream base.
Last spring I made dandelion & honey ice cream, and this year I’m going to try it out with lilacs instead. Here are a few more creamy lilac ice cream, pudding, and custard recipes:
- Lilac Lemon Grapefruit Sherbert ~ Will Frolic for Food
- Lilac Ice Cream ~ Ice Cream Magazine
- Lilac Honey Posset (old-fashioned custard) ~ Gather Victoria
- Lilac Rice Pudding ~ Homespun Seasonal Living
- Lilac Popsicles ~ Adamant Kitchen
Lilac Cake Recipes
The sweet floral qualities of lilacs make for a delightful cake, and I’m actually planning on making a version of this Magnolia Cream Cake, but substituting lilacs for the magnolias. Plenty of creative people have already made their own lilac cakes (and cheesecakes!), here are a few to get you started:
- Giant Lilac Scented Strawberry Shortcake ~ The Kitchen McCabe
- Lemon & Lilac Bundt Cake ~ Retro Lillies
- Lilac Dream Vegan Cheesecake ~ Unconventional Baker
- Small Batch Lilac Chocolate Cupcakes ~ Constellation Inspiration
- Lilac Cake with Matcha Glaze (Gluten Free) ~ Oh Honey Bakes
- Lilac Honey Cake ~ Homespun Seasonal Living
Lilac Cookies, Donuts and More
Don’t need a whole cake? How about lilac cookies, donuts, scones or even a pavlova?
- Strawberry Jelly Donuts with Lilac Sugar ~ Half Baked Harvest
- Lilac and Blackberry Pavlovas ~ Kate at the Kitchen Door
- Lilac Cornmeal Cookies ~ Homespun Seasonal Living
- Lilac and Almond Scones ~ Delectably Mine
- Lilac and Violet Panna Cotta Tart ~ Bakers Brigade
Spring is when we put away the heavy winter drinks and bring out the light, floral cocktails. Try any of these lilac cocktails and mocktails:
- Lilac Lemon Fizz Mocktail ~ The Merry Thought
- Lilac 75 Cocktail ~ Holly and Flora
- Lilac Water ~ Feasting at Home
- Lilac Martini ~ Havoc In the Kitchen
- Lilac Bees’ Knees Cocktail ~ Savoring the Good
- Lilac Lemonade ~ Savoring the Good
Lilac Body Products
Beyond just eating lilacs, you can also add them to homemade body products. Years ago I picked up a lilac solid lotion bar at a farmer’s market and I loved using it on special occasions. When it finally ran out I missed it terribly, so I guess I’ll have to make my own…
- Lavender Face Cream with Lilacs and Violets ~ The Nerdy Farm Wife
- Lilac Bath Truffle (Bath Bombs plus skin conditioning oils) ~ Soap Queen
- Lilac Milk Bath ~ La Crema
Medicinal Uses of Lilacs
Though I cannot find any modern verification or studies around the medicinal uses of lilacs, they were used for medicine historically for the following:
- Antiperiodic ~ To prevent the recurrence of disease, lilac flowers were used to help strengthen the system and prevent relapse after a patient had healed. They’re said to be specifically good after cases of malaria.
- Astringent ~ Tasting the raw flowers you can actually pick up some of the astringent qualities, as they make your mouth dry and pucker a bit (along with their floral flavors). This astringent quality makes them good for use in skin care products.
- Vermifuge ~ Lilacs are used as a folk remedy for intestinal worms, as well as a treatment for gastric discomfort and gas.
Regardless of the purpose, the most likely medicinal lilac preparation is a tincture, which is just a lilac infused alcohol. Simple enough…
Now that you’ve got a bit of inspiration, how are you going to use your lilacs?
More Edible Flower Recipes
Looking for more ways to use edible flowers? Here are a few ideas…
I never knew you could use any type of plant in so many ways. I really enjoyed your post, it had lots of information and ideas!
I will try that. Never heard that before. Dandelions nice in meals.
Where can I buy edible lilacs. I live in San Francisco
Awesome. My daughter and I are exploring ways to use lilacs this summer.
Curt j rosinski
In terms of medicinal use, the drug Metformin is derived from French Lilac, just an FYI.
I’d love to know about leaf teas and other such ways the plant was cultivated for those remedies you mentioned!
Are there any uses for the leaves & or bark at all? If so what are they & can the leaves be substituted for the flowers & receive the same medicinal properties from the leaves?
Good question, but I honestly don’t know the answer to that one.
Karen D. Hitz
I would like to know more about using lilacs in teas also. I have heard of the drug Metiformin is derived from French Lilacs.
How do you tell french lilac’s from other lilac?
Any thoughts about flavour profile of white lilac compared to purple? I know my syrup won’t be as pretty, but wondering if it will still taste nice.
I personally have never tried the white but I am very curious to know how they taste. If you decide to try it, let us know.
Interesting. I didn’t know this.