Saturday, November 29, 2008

How to get those little black bugs out of flowers without washing

It's not a recipe, but I stumbled on this idea while tearing my hair out over the hordes of little critters in our elderflowers the other day. I've since used this method with roses as well.

4 reasons not to wash flowers that destined for culinary or medicinal use
1. It can damage the fragile petals

2. Flowers readily release their fragrant/flavoursome/active components into water, and you don't want to wash any of that valuable stuff away

3. If you're making something like wine, where you want plenty of wild yeasts, you don't want to wash yeasts off.

4. I'm not convinced that washing gets all the bugs out anyway. Sometimes I think it just makes them stick to the flowers soggily.

The bugs

I don't know if other people get these exact bugs in their flowers. They are very tiny and black and crawl fast. They are the only creatures I get in my flowers usually. I have no idea what they are, but I don't want too many of them in my cordial or wine or fritters!

Getting rid of them

You need two BIG pale plates or bowls. (Transparent bowls work well too.)

Put the flowers in a pile on one of the plates, and watch the mass exodus! The bugs all start speeding out from the pile of flowers towards the edges of the plate.

Now pick up the flowers, and put them on the other plate. Quickly rinse all the bugs off the first plate, and dry. (Sorry, bugs.)

Now more bugs will be running out to the edges of the second plate, so switch again and rinse and dry.

Keep doing this, switching between the plates. Gradually there will be fewer and fewer bugs coming out.

At a certain point it starts to feel like washing rice - like no matter how many times you do it, you will never quite be finished. But just gently turn or agitate the flowers a bit each time you put them down, and watch for curled petals where bugs might be hiding in a fold, and eventually no more will come out. Then you can remove any final die-hards with your fingers.

There you are - bug-free flowers.

And if you do end up missing just a few, you can always strain them out of the finished flower wine/syrup/cordial ... Or if it's flower fritters you are making, just think of them as a little protein bonus.

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