Fried acacia (black locust) blossoms

Fried acacia (black locust) blossoms

Fiori di acacia fritti

By
From
Acquacotta
Serves
4
Photographer
Emiko Davies; Lauren Bamford

For a short couple of weeks in late spring, maybe even less, the country roads of the Maremma are lined with thin trees bearing bunches of pretty white flowers. Hanging down like miniature chandeliers, they have a heavy intoxicating perfume, quite like jasmine or orange blossom. You can’t miss them. Known as Black Locust trees (or False Acacia, Robinia pseudoacacia) in English, they are native to North America, and were brought to Europe in the early 1600s. In Italy they go by the name acacia.

You can serve fried blossoms as an afternoon snack or as part of an antipasto. The result is similar to fried zucchini flowers (courgette or squash blossoms), which are really just a vehicle for eating deliciously crisp, fried batter – but with black locust blossoms, you have a delicate flavour of nectar and spice mingling with that perfume reminiscent of orange blossom. They can be sprinkled with sea salt, dusted in icing (confectioners’) sugar or – my favourite – drizzled with locust honey (also known as acacia honey), a pale, delicate and fragrant honey.

You can use this same batter for frying sage leaves, zucchini flowers and heads of blooming, fragrant elderflower (Sambucus nigra), which overlaps the black locust season in southern Tuscany – together they make an impressive platter of fried flowers and herbs to serve as antipasto. If you’re using the amount of batter in this recipe, it’s plenty to fry about four of each type of flower.

Ingredients

Quantity Ingredient
150g plain flour
12 large bunches acacia blossoms
vegetable oil, for frying
sea salt flakes
or 1 tablespoon honey

Method

  1. Whisk the flour and 250 ml of water together in a large bowl until smooth. Let it rest and chill in the refrigerator for at least 30 minutes. The batter should be smooth and fairly runny – it should run off a spoon quickly. You may find after the resting time that you need to add a little more water.
  2. In the meantime, prepare the flower bunches by trimming off any leaves and cutting into separate bunches. Leave the stem a good 4–5 cm long – it’s handy for dipping and pulling the bunch out of the oil. Do not wash them.
  3. Pour the oil into a medium saucepan until it’s about 4–5 cm deep – enough oil for the flowers to float in. Place the pan over medium– high heat and bring the oil to a temperature of about 160°C. You can use a sugar thermometer or test with the end of a wooden spoon – the spoon should be surrounded immediately by lots of tiny bubbles as soon as it hits the oil. If the oil starts smoking, it’s too hot – turn down the heat or remove from the heat to cool it down for a moment.
  4. Fry in batches of 3–4 so that you don’t overcrowd the pan. Dip a bunch of flowers into the batter and turn to coat evenly. Holding the bunch by the stem, let the excess batter run off the flowers for a moment. Still holding the stem (tongs can do this if you’re not game with fingers), place in the hot oil, shaking a little for the first few seconds so that the flowers separate from each other. Cook, turning as needed, for about 30–60 seconds or until the batter is crisp and evenly pale golden.
  5. Drain on paper towel and continue dipping and frying with the rest of the bunches. Serve the warm fried flowers with either a sprinkling of sea salt flakes or a drizzle of honey.

Tips for foraging and preparing flowers

  • Take a pair of pruning shears and a basket for the flowers.

    Avoid polluted areas such as road sides.

    Go in the morning when flowers are freshest.

    Smell before you pick. Keep only the best-smelling flowers, as these will also be the best-tasting ones. Avoid wilted or old flowers and don’t pick flowers right after the rain.

    Eat only the flowers and not the stems or leaves, which in some cases are toxic, but for ease of preparing, cut the flowers with stems intact.

    Don’t wash the flowers, as they can lose their fragrant pollen. However, do check for insects.
Tags:
Italian
Tuscany
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