A stalwart of suburban gardens and paint colour charts alike, Magnolia tends to only be found where humans want it. It is rarely found in the wild, but looms over many a pavement right across the nation and offers up a stunning floral display early in the season, when other dramatic trees have yet to get started. Magnolia trees are a prehistoric species, long before flying insects were around, so pollination was the duty of beetles and other crawling species. It’s this dependency on larger bugs that encouraged the glorious, open flower heads to evolve, and exactly what we are looking for as foragers.
Magnolia petals have a distinct ginger flavour, without all the fieriness of the root variety, which lends itself to being used in cake-making, cocktails and other sweet serving suggestions. We’ve preserved these petals in a light syrup, which extends the lifespan without losing any of the delicate flavour. If you can resist wolfing down the whole jar, we recommend trying it floating atop a sparkling cocktail on a sunny day, or baked lightly in a cupcake. However you choose to enjoy it, it will be a prehistoric taste being explored by a modern palate via the means of traditional harvesting methods, and we are pretty chuffed with that as a concept (and phrase!).
P.s. when you are finished with the petals, make sure you save the syrup. Mix it into drinks, freeze it as an ice lolly or bake it into a cake!