There must be a hint of the butterfly in me, because beautiful flowers make my mouth water. Today I stuck my nose in every iris I came to, to see if that color smelled as much like bubble gum as the deep blue ones my mother used to grow.
While I didn’t actually eat the iris or chew them for their bubble gum flavor, there were some other flowers that I did eat when I was little. I was especially fond of fresh white clover blossoms, sweet with nectar. The deep pink oxalis, or sorrel, was sour and addicting at the same time, kind of like a very refined and beautiful pickle.
As I grew up, there was some experimenting with violets in our spring salads, and radish flowers, and in later years, nasturtiums and calendula brightening a platter with a splash of fiery orange. (Munching on pretty flowers is something you should do only after checking a website listing which ones are edible, of course. And only if you know they are totally organically grown.)
A childhood delight that I still indulge when the heavy honeysuckle fragrance drifts across the lawn is finding and tasting that golden drop of nectar hidden in each flower. You pick the flower, gently break the green bottom end off, then carefully pull the filament down through the flower to the open end, pulling the drop of nectar with it. Then taste. The term nectar of the gods must have originated here.
Another yummy part of the yard is a flower that you don’t eat but you wait for the fruit that comes after. The huge saucer shapes of elderberry blossoms, white against the green leaves, are gorgeous in themselves and if I’m not mistaken, are used to make a refreshing elderberry drink I’ve tasted when visiting England. Perhaps they use the tiny dark fruits, too, as my own mother did to make pies and juice for jelly.
Wild blackberries took over a corner of our yard one year, and I was able to take a fresh glacé berry pie to every church and family function there for a few weeks, slathered in fresh whipped cream.
Little boys around here watch the mulberries come out pale, turn red, and then deliciously black. At that point the trees will sprout mysteriously moving branches and sneakers showing through the leaves. Boys’ faces will grow mysteriously purple.
And speaking of tasty delights, I look at my blooming mountain laurel in all its pink and white frothiness and I find myself thinking longingly of cake, strawberries, afternoon coffee and the company of family.
It’s easy to explain and hard to replicate. Aunt Pauline and Uncle George Brunk lived in a house overlooking Lucas Creek on what the Yoder family had called “The Mountain.” Each spring while they were still with us, we were invited to celebrate the blooming of the rampant mountain laurel for which the place was named.
Celebrating the beautiful outdoors with good food and family—what could be more like that butterfly?