With the ornamental cherry trees taking all the blossom plaudits at the moment, spare a thought for the humble blackthorn tree, which decorated our native hedgerows and woodlands only a month or so ago without any sense of showing off. As one of the first flowers to emerge in Spring, it delicately sparkles in the hedges as its small flowers tentatively open up and fill the air with a lovely, nutty aroma. A quick nibble of one of its flowers will not disappoint either, and a surprising nuttiness akin to an almond sits on the tongue for some time. We've captured this unusual floral flavour in a simple syrup, which preserves the uniqueness of the plant, without requiring too much manipulation to incorporate into a dish or drink. Try it in a cocktail where a simple syrup may be required, perhaps opting for something where amaretto may play a big part to really bring out that nutty flavour. Either that or drizzled liberally over your first big ice-cream of the year.
Worried that picking flowers may reduce the number of sloes available in autumn? Don't worry, the indiscriminate practice of hedge-flailing later this season will rip out any remaining hedgerow flowers so your blackthorn patch won't have any sloes growing on it anyway. Top tip: beat the farmers to the hedge trim and get yourself some guilt- free flower foraging in now before finding yourself a proper wild patch for the big sloe harvest in Autumn!