Lilac Cheesecakes (vegan, raw, and gluten-free)
There is so much more to lilac than only being a pretty decorative bush. Meet lilac in a new way, and learn how to make delicious cheesecakes infused with its sweet floral essence.
With their divine floral scent and copious amounts of flowers, to me, blooming lilac bushes are a spectacular celebration of the abundance of spring. Especially the ones that grow in sunny locations can turn into a sea of vibrant purple.
Common lilac (Syringa vulgaris) is a bush known well for its fragrant clusters of flowers. Although you can now find it in many places around the world, lilacs have their roots in the Balkan Peninsula in Southeastern Europe, where they grow in the wild on rocky hillsides.
Humans have had lilacs growing in or near our settlements for centuries, and we have developed a special relationship with the bush. You can find lilac all the way back in Greek mythology. According to a myth, one day a nymph called Syringa ran through the forest to avoid the advances of a suitor. When he was approaching and she had nowhere to hide, she turned herself into a beautiful lilac bush. Poor Syringa’s wasn't able to fully hide her beauty, and her divine scent wafted through the air towards her suitor. Pan couldn’t resist the fragrance, and broke off a branch. When he tried to kiss it, he discovered that this made a sound. Pan had just created the legendary musical instrument the “panpipe.” In other parts of the world, people associated lilac's heart-shaped leaves and sweet scent with love, flirtation, or the memories of a past romance. Some believed lilacs were favored by faeries, while others believed that planting them near their house could help to ward off negative energies (even ghosts!) and people with bad intentions.
Although lilac isn't mentioned very often in herbal books, the bush has been used as a medicinal plant. The leaves are said to help stop the recurrence of certain diseases like malaria, as well as reduce fevers, while the bark acts like an astringent in our body, helping to balance our body's fluids. The flowers could help support your eyes, hair, and skin health. Infusing them in a natural oil for some weeks can provide you with an easy and fragrant skin oil that can help tone your skin and treat imbalances.
When you think of a lilac bush, you might think of gardens or hedgerows. However, you can sometimes also find lilac growing in woodlands, on hills and cliffs, vacant lots, roadsides, and areas around abandoned dwellings.
During the few weeks of spring whilst in full bloom, identifying lilac is pretty easy. The flowers grow in large, cone-shaped clusters and can come in varying shades of purple as well as white. When you look more closely, you will see that each individual flower is very small and trumpet-shaped, opening up into four distinct petals.
If there are no flowers in sight, there are also other identifying features you could look for. Common lilac grows as a multi-stemmed bush that can normally grow up to 7 meters (23 ft.) tall. On the branches you will find smooth, heart-shaped leaves that are arranged in opposite pairs, and the stem is grayish brown. There are a few closely related species to common lilac (Syringa vulgaris). These include Korean Lilac (Syringa oblata), which has rounded leaves, and Chinese lilac (Syringa chinensis), which has leaves that taper at their base.
HARVESTING AND PROCESSING LILAC
For this recipe you only need to harvest lilac flowers. Lilac usually blooms for a few weeks in the spring. Depending on where you live, this could be some time from late April to early June. It's good to keep an eye out, because the window of opportunity is relatively narrow!
Before you get started, remember that when you harvest lilac or anything else in nature, it’s important to walk softly on the Earth and to forage with care. We humans are guests and receivers of the gifts of nature, so always consider how you can do this respectfully. Please only take what you need and leave plenty of lilac flowers for bees and other pollinators.
The best time to harvest your lilac clusters is either early in the morning, or otherwise late in the day. It's best to use the flowers right away. If this is not possible, you could cut the flower heads so that they include a bit of stem at the bottom. In this way you can put them in a small vase with some water for a few hours.
To use the flowers for your cheesecake or any other lilac recipe, it's important to remove each individual flower from the cluster. The stems and leaves have a bitter flavor, which you probably don't want to mix into your food. In my experience the flavor of lilac flowers can vary quite a bit from being milder or sharper, and sweeter to slightly bitter. It's therefore a good idea to taste test, and to add smaller quantities at a time to your recipe. In this way you can see how the flavor of the flowers interacts with the rest of your ingredients. Working with lilac is a bit of a creative adventure!
LILAC CHEESECAKES RECIPE VISUAL GUIDE
This recipe is made with the all-natural ingredients that you see below. The cheesecakes are plant-based, gluten- and refined sugar free.
The recipe card at the bottom of this post gives you an overview of all the ingredients and steps to make yourself some delicious lilac cheesecakes. You can however also occasionally peek at this visual guide to make it easier to follow along with the different steps!
LILAC CHEESECAKES RECIPE
Disclaimer: Every year there are people that are poisoned or experience other negative health effects from eating inedible wild plants or mushrooms that resemble edible species. For this reason it's essential to ensure proper species identification and to consult multiple quality sources for doing this. It's also important to always check and follow all local foraging regulations before you harvest anything in nature.