Honeysuckle ice cream is an unforgettable summer treat you can make using invasive Japanese honeysuckle flowers. In this article, you’ll find out how to make your own honeysuckle ice cream to savor a favorite flavor from childhood!
The taste of childhood: a scoop of honeysuckle ice cream
True story: when I was ten years old, I once spent an afternoon painstakingly extracting drips of nectar from countless honeysuckle flowers in order to fill a small cup. I then retreated to a favorite hideaway and slowly sipped the precious liquid, savoring the flavor without risk of being asked to share. All mine!
Flavors have so many layers of meaning and memory. I can’t smell or taste honeysuckle flowers without being instantly transported back in time. Today, when honeysuckle nectar hits my taste buds, the layer of me that’s still a kid foraging wild plants with my family wakes up and knocks on the door of my adult brain. Still all mine!
Today, I’m also able to enjoy seeing that same spark of joy light up in the eyes of our toddler, who is every bit as fond of honeysuckle nectar as I am.
However, when I was a child, I had no idea honeysuckle flowers could be used to make amazing recipes like honeysuckle ice cream. And kid me would also have loved to know that there are far easier ways to extract the flavor of honeysuckle than pulling a tiny drop of nectar out of the center of each flower…
What type of honeysuckle flowers do you need to make this recipe?
There are lots of species of honeysuckle, including honeysuckle species native to the United States. However, for this recipe, you’ll want to use Japanese honeysuckle (Lonicera japonica),
Japanese honeysuckle is an invasive species that grows prolifically in states east of the Mississippi River and sporadically throughout a few western states as well.
The first day that Japanese honeysuckle flowers open, they’re white-colored. Second day flowers are golden-yellow. Either color is fine to use and will add plenty of flavor.
However, for this ice cream recipe you do not want to use:
- unopened flowers,
- brown/desiccated flowers, or
- leaves or stems.
Extracting flavor from honeysuckle flowers
Fear not: making honeysuckle ice cream will NOT require you to pull a tiny bead of nectar out of 8 million honeysuckle flowers. Instead, you’ll be using whole flowers to infuse the cream-milk mixture.
(Related: Read 16 edible wild flowers of spring which also includes a fermented honeysuckle flower cordial recipe.)
During the process of perfecting this recipe, we tried three variations of honeysuckle flower-cream infusion and conducted the following taste tests with our neighbors (who were very willing participants):
Method 1: Cold infusion
Honeysuckle flowers were submerged in dairy overnight in the fridge before being made into ice cream. The flowers were never heated.
Method 2: Heat infusion with additional steeping time
Honeysuckle flowers were cooked in milk-cream mixture over medium heat (not boiling) for ~15 minutes, then the mixture was brought to room temperature. Mixture was placed in fridge overnight with flowers left in the dairy prior to being strained and made into ice cream the next day.
Method 3: Heat infusion with NO additional steeping time
Same as Method 2, except mixture was placed in fridge overnight with flowers left in the dairy prior to being strained (after 18 hours) and made into ice cream the next day.
Taste test results
The hands-down winner in the taste test results was the cold infusion, Method 1. This method produced the best overall flavor and flavor concentration. It’s like eating a scoop of honeysuckle nectar with cream. Utterly delicious; your inner child may scream all mine!
Thus, this method is the basis for the honeysuckle ice cream recipe at the bottom of this article.
Second place went to the cooked and immediately strained honeysuckle flower version (Method 3). Third place (cooked + steeped overnight) still tasted good, but the flavors were too intense and there was a slight bitter aftertaste that developed.
Other important ingredients
After the first taste test, The Tyrant recommended we add salt and vanilla. This combination really helps add depth and flavor nuance to the final honeysuckle ice cream.
Don’t go too heavy on the vanilla or it will overpower the honeysuckle flavor. We use organic vanilla bean paste, but you can substitute a quality vanilla extract.
Also recommended: add a little bit of fresh organic lemon zest to the top of the ice cream when you’re serving. The touch of lemon/acid helps balance out the sweetness and cream.
What about the insects? Rinsing the honeysuckle flowers?
The average American unknowingly eats about 1.5 pounds of insects each year. No, they’re not ordering cricket crackers, they’re inadvertently eating insects through their regular food, especially fruits and veggies.
If you’re a gardener or forager like we are, the idea of ingesting the occasional small insect on your food isn’t off-putting. It’s just par for the course.
When you’re picking honeysuckle flowers, you might notice a few nearly microscopic insects on the flowers (aphids, thrips, etc). You could give your honeysuckle flowers a rinse in cold water before using them.
However, doing so will: a) not remove every insect, and b) remove a lot of the honeysuckle flowers’ flavor.
Instead of rinsing the flowers, we recommend you welcome in a little extra nutrition to your diet and help re-wild your microbiome in the process. You can also take comfort in knowing that you’ll be straining the solids out before making the ice cream, so there’s not going to be anything scary in your bowl when it’s time to eat.
Which ice cream maker?
We used our old Cuisinart ice cream maker to make this recipe, which takes about 20-30 minutes to turn the liquid dairy into ice cream. However, follow the instructions on your specific brand of ice cream maker.
Don’t have an ice cream maker? You could try freezing the finished honeysuckle-cream liquid mixture into cubes, then putting the cubes into a food processor or blender.
If you need to store your honeysuckle ice cream, we recommend using a covered 8″x4″ glass bread pan. That will make it easy to scoop out the ice cream when you’re ready to serve.
Recipe: Honeysuckle ice cream
Now let’s get churning!
Honeysuckle ice cream
Honeysuckle ice cream is an unforgettable summer treat you can make with invasive Japanese honeysuckle flowers. It tastes like childhood in a spoon!
1. For soaking honeysuckle flowers for flavor extraction:
- 1 cup organic whole milk
- 1 cup organic heavy cream
- 2.5 cups fresh honeysuckle flowers, un-rinsed
2. For sweetening and flavoring:
- 1/4 cup organic heavy cream
- 1/4 cup organic whole milk
- 1/2 cup sugar
- 1/2 tsp vanilla bean paste (alt vanilla extract)
- 1/8 tsp salt
- Optional: When serving, garnish with fresh organic Meyer lemon zest
1. For soaking honeysuckle flowers for flavor extraction:
Combine all ingredients from first section (milk, cream, flowers) in glass jar. Stir to mix together. Cover and place in fridge for 18-24 hours.
When ready to combine with sweetened mixture, remove from fridge, then strain flowers. Squeeze flowers firmly to remove all liquid. Then strain again through fine mesh strainer to remove all debris.
2. For sweetening and flavoring:
Combine all ingredients from second section (cream, milk, sugar, vanilla, salt) in small sauce pan over medium heat. Whisk regularly. Cook for ~10 minutes or until all sugar and salt is fully disolved.
Remove from heat and let cool until lukewarm. Then combine with strained honeysuckle-cream mixture. Stir to combine. Refrigerate until cold and you're ready to make into ice cream.
Follow instructions on your ice cream maker. Our Cuisinart takes about 20-30 minutes to make ice cream. Serve as-is once ice cream is ready or garnish with a bit of fresh lemon zest.
If you need to store for later, use a covered 8"×4″ or smaller glass baking dish, which makes scooping easy.
We hope you and your family enjoy this honeysuckle ice cream recipe as much as we do!
Want more flower power in your kitchen? Check out these related articles:
- 16 incredible edible wild flowers of spring
- Sparkling wisteria flower cordial
- How to select and use edible roses
- Elderflower kombucha
- Edible hibiscus? How to grow and use Hibiscus sabdariffa
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AliciaMay 17, 2023 at 4:04 pm
This was so good! I blended the honeysuckle with the cream in a food processor then let sit overnight in fridge (method 1) and strained through cheese cloth the next day. I can’t believe how much the honeysuckle flavor comes through!! so. much. flavor.
Aaron von FrankMay 17, 2023 at 4:16 pm
Awesome! Thanks so much, Alicia. Glad you enjoyed your honeysuckle ice cream. Also interesting to hear that you put yours through a food processor first. We actually just soaked the whole flowers. Sounds like either option works. I’d have been nervous about turning the cream into whipped cream in the food processor. 😛