I was mumble years old when I learned that floral goat cheese was a thing.
This simple but elegant spread beautifully captures the flavors of spring. Better still, it’s a great way to introduce family and friends to the exciting world of wild food.
Like black locust flowers.
If you can forage them.
Each spring, black locust flowers (Robinia pseudoacacia) dangle elusively out of my reach. The only black locust tree in our yard towers above my head, the fragrant white blossoms taunting me from above.
(Yes, there is one cluster of blossoms in that photo – just one – kind of in the middle.) Because they are so hard to reach, any tree with low branches (that’s not in someone’s yard) should be taken full advantage of! Unfortunately, almost every tree fell into one of those two categories – too tall or requiring trespassing like this one.
(No, I did not trespass.)
Finally, at the tail end of peak blossom season, I found a tree with low branches alongside a quiet country road.
The cows in the field behind the tree watched me suspiciously as I frantically snipped flower clusters into a waiting bag.
Given how hard it is to collect black locust flowers, keep the following tips in mind to maximize your harvest. The fragrant floral aroma is ruined by long term storage or suffocating in plastic bags. Which means, “Harvest them in baskets or open paper bags and use as soon as possible!” Additionally, avoid washing the flowers as it will diminish the scent significantly. Cooking also destroys the fragrance.
Here is the basic recipe / method for floral goat cheese: For four ounces of goat cheese, add the grated zest of one medium lemon and mix well. I lined a ramekin with plastic wrap and molded the goat cheese to the inside, forming a round shape instead of the usual cylindrical loaf. Once the goat cheese is in your preferred shape, embed flowers in it.
That’s all there is to it!
Depending on the flavor profile of your flowers, you could add other herbs as well. For instance, a small amount of ground rosemary would complement lavender-crusted goat cheese. When serving, drizzle the goat cheese with honey (optional) and sprinkle with good quality salt.
I used this approach to introduce my neighbors to the idea of eating flowers from wild plants, using black locust for the flowers. Despite their apprehension, everyone who tried it raved about the goat cheese!
Of course, black locust is only one of many options to encrust a goat cheese spread. Other flowers available in late May in the mid-Atlantic include lavender (Lavandula spp.)…
…Johnny Jump-Ups (Viola tricolor)…
…and the incredibly invasive (but beautifully scented) multiflora rose (Rosa multiflora).
How are you enjoying the flavors of spring as May comes to a close?