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Bigleaf maples reach approximately 15 meters tall and the namesake is evident once the tree’s leaves fully open, reaching widths of 30 centimeters. The blossoms first being to appear in early spring as yellow-green strands of small round buds. They soon open to reveal clusters of tiny cup-shaped flowers with many pistols that have a downy fur at the base. The Maple blossoms have a slight astringency with a flavor that is a cross between honeysuckle and artichoke. They should be harvested when they are budding on the tip and fully open at the base of the flower cluster. They may be stripped off the flower stem or stored whole in the refrigerator.
Maple blossoms are available in the spring.
Maple blossoms of the Bigleaf maple tree, botanically classified as Acer macrophyllum, are a springtime foraging treat. The fluffy, lime green clusters of flowers appear before the leaves bud out, and are easily identified against the tree’s bare limbs. They may be collected from the forest floor after a windstorm or with the use of a tall ladder. The versatile flowers are a marriage between floral sweetness and vegetal astringency, and are excellent raw or cooked. The sap of the Bigleaf may be boiled down into a syrup, but is inferior when compared to its cousin, the Sugar maple.
Maple blossoms lend themselves to both sweet and savory applications. They are entirely edible and their mild flavor and lacy structure make them an excellent vehicle for other flavors such as a batter or vinaigrette. Dip the blossoms into a sweet batter and fry them with a dusting of powdered sugar to finish. Their lemony vegetal quality compliments pesto and other raw herbal sauces. They may also be preserved by pickling or used to infuse simple syrups and cordials.
Bigleaf maples may be found along North America’s Pacific coast, from British Columbia to some isolated groves in San Diego County. They can tolerate a wide range of temperatures and moisture levels, but thrive in areas with a plentiful fresh water source. Two rare varieties of Bigleaf maple are the Kimball which has deeper lobed leaves and the Murray which has rose-red leaves.
Recipes that include Maple Blossoms. One is easiest, three is harder.
|Happy Vegetable Cow||Quick-Pickled Maple Blossoms|
|Salt + Fat + Whiskey||Maple Flower Spring Rolls|
|Fat of the Land||Maple Blossom-Mint Pesto|
|Tall Clover Farm||Maple Blossom Fritters|