Every April for the last decade, I’ve ventured into Prospect Park in Brooklyn to revel in cherry blossoms. The lush pink, white, and cream-colored flowers are a burst of joy after a long, cold winter and go hand in hand with the arrival of spring as we shed our layers and gather outside.
While there are hundreds of varieties of cherry blossoms, the species known for their flowers, such as Prunus serrulata, are ornamental trees in the rose family cultivated in Japan. In Japanese culture, flowering cherry trees or “sakura” embody the fleeting nature of life. For after the floral abundance peaks for one to two weeks, petals begin to fall. Sakura as a symbol of beauty and impermanence can be traced back centuries.
Cherry blossoms are edible. When I taste the sweet, silky flowers I notice a hint of bitterness and the tangy flavor of cherry. The scent is intoxicating, and I feel a slight cooling, uplifting and soothing action as I take them in. Famously used in traditional Japanese sweets like mochi cakes, candies, and cookies, blossoms can also be made into uplifting flower essences and tinctures or teas that bloom when covered with hot water.
My favorite way to enjoy the taste and medicine of the flowers is in vinegar. Raw apple cider vinegar is a great alternative to alcohol and glycerine based extracts and offers a myriad of benefits from digestive system support to clearing skin. Infused with cherry blossoms, the vinegar is rich and syrupy with a burst of cherry flavor that is delicious in salad dressings, marinades, seltzer water, or cocktails for a joy-inducing elixir.
This medicinal vinegar not only gladdens the heart but is anti-inflammatory and rich in antioxidants— naturally occurring vitamins and minerals— that help protect our skin from free radicals, like UV rays and pollution.
Cherry Blossom Vinegar
Making this cherry blossom vinegar is easy. Cherry blossoms are abundant and a joy to harvest. I gently pluck and eat the silky petals as I go, knowing that soon they will be gone.
What you’ll need…
- Roughly 2 cups (or one full lunch bag) of fresh cherry blossoms
- 16 oz raw apple cider vinegar
- Find a tree that is okay to harvest from, making sure the area has not been chemically sprayed or contaminated.
- Carefully harvest flower buds and open blooms, and place them into your basket or paper bag. Please note that it’s best to avoid harvesting leaves with the flowers since many of the plants in this genus have cyanogenic properties, which can be concentrated in the leaves.
- The amount you harvest depends on your intention. My cherry blossom vinegar goes fast and I love giving a jar as a gift. I typically fill 4–6 quart sized mason jars with ⅔ of the way flowers and top them off with raw, organic apple cider vinegar. Herbalists have long used apple cider vinegar as a solvent in medicine making. While the vinegar extractions don’t break down many plant constituents as effectively as alcohol, they do extract sugars, tannins, glycosides, bitter compounds, alkaloids, vitamins, and minerals.
- If you use a glass jar with a metal lid, be sure to use parchment or wax paper between the jar and lid, otherwise the vinegar will eat away at the metal.
- Infuse your blossoms for a minimum of 2–4 weeks. If you harvest pink blossoms, your liquid will turn a gorgeous goldeny-fuschia color.
- When you’re ready, pour off and strain the cherry blossom vinegar for a treat that contains the energy of early spring. I like to give the infused flowers back to the earth or add them to salads or as a garnish for drinks.
So this spring, I encourage you to get outside and relish the cherry blossoms and their brief moment of bloom. Notice how you feel in their presence. These delicate flowers are fleeting and remind us to savor each precious moment of our lives.
Now I’d love to hear from you…
Are cherry blossoms growing near you?
Have you ever made cherry blossom vinegar?
Please share in the comments below.