June 19 Almanac
One whiff of wild honeysuckle sends me down the bumpy dirt road, down the gravel drive, down to the back paddock, where the bay pony greets me at the gate, alfalfa hay tangled in her thick black mane.
As a child, summer mornings at the farm were sacred to me.
At the earliest light, while the air was still cool, we watered flowerbeds and drinking troughs, then took off bareback down the lush woodland riding trail.
Past the quiet creek, where water moccasins sunned on fallen logs, past the neighboring farm, where an ancient donkey wheezed in exaltation, on past the patch of ripening blackberries, I return to the place I first experienced the taste of wild honeysuckle, a place I return each June, if only in my mind.
This year, summer solstice lands on Friday, June 21.
And yet the sweetness of the season arrives unexpectedly — in an instant, in one delicious whiff, inside a single drop of nectar.
Figs of Summer
June marks the arrival of the earliest blackberries and scuppernongs. Picking herbs at dawn for midday pesto. Fried squash blossoms and fresh sweet corn. The first ripe fig.
I’ll never forget the Devon Park rental with the young fig tree out back. “It’s never produced fruit,” the landlord had told me.
And yet, one June evening, after scrubbing and filling the concrete birdbath, there it was: a tiny green fruit.
I watched that perfect fig slowly ripen day after day, for weeks.
Just as a caterpillar emerges from cocoon-state completely transformed, one day my darling fig was purple.
Soon, it would be ready to harvest. One more day, I told myself.
But the next day, the birds had beaten me to it.
Take whatever wisdom you wish from this little memory. And as for you birds: I hope the fig was delicious.
No great thing is created suddenly, any more than a bunch of grapes or a fig. If you tell me that you desire a fig, I answer that there must be time. Let it first blossom, then bear fruit, then ripen. — Epictetus
In addition to the uplifting aroma of its summer blossoms, the honeysuckle is a plant of many surprising health benefits. (Add honeysuckle oil to the bath, for example, to soothe arthritis or muscle pain.) But what could be sweeter than adding homemade honeysuckle syrup to your favorite summer refreshment (iced tea, lemonade, sorbet, fresh fruit, you-name-it)? The below recipe stores up to one month in the refrigerator. Do make sure to harvest blossoms that are free from pesticides. And, if you make enough syrup, share the sweetness with a friend.
Honeysuckle Blossom Syrup
1 cup sugar
1 cup water
50 honeysuckle blossoms
In a small saucepan, combine sugar, water and honeysuckle blossoms.
Using medium to high heat, bring to a boil, stirring constantly.
Reduce heat and simmer for 3-4 minutes.
Remove from heat and allow to cool completely.
Strain into a jar; refrigerate.
It is the month of June, The month of leaves and roses, When pleasant sights salute the eyes and pleasant scents the noses. — Nathaniel Parker Willis
Let There Be Magic
The Full Strawberry Moon rises on Monday, June 17 — four days before the solstice. Also called the Honey Moon, the Mead Moon and the Full Rose Moon, allow the brilliance of this June wonder to illuminate all the magic and potential of this brand-new season. And if you happen upon ripe wild strawberries for the occasion, don’t forget the honeysuckle blossom syrup in the fridge.