Spring has sprung, and the cherry trees are blushing with blossoms – a sight to be savoured, if only for a few fleeting weeks. But did you know that some cherry flowers are edible, too? In Japan, cherry blossom – known as sakura – is both a spectacle and a delicacy, used to flavour everything from green tea to ice cream. The flowers taste subtly fragrant and fruity, while their petals lend a pop of pink. This sakura season, bring a little spring into your kitchen with these cherry blossom recipes: they put this unique ingredient in the spotlight, yet are remarkably easy to make.
In the Japanese spirit of hanami (flower viewing), share them with friends and family – ideally on a picnic under the blooms at one of the UK’s top cherry blossom locations.
The following cherry blossom recipes use premium salt-preserved flowers, imported from Japan – such as these produced by Chinriu. You must only use cherry blossoms that are food-grade quality, purchased from a reputable retailer; do not consume any fresh flowers.
The preserved blossoms are very salty, so should be bathed in fresh water for at least one hour to bring out their flavour. For the best result, change the water 2-3 times. As they soak, the flowers open their petals, becoming frilly and dainty once again – just like magic! Dry them on kitchen roll for a few minutes before using, and handle them gently.
Cherry blossom recipes:
Cherry blossom biscuits
A pretty addition to tea time, or a long walk beneath the spring blooms
Makes 15 biscuits:
|15-25 preserved cherry blossom flowers, soaked to remove salt|
|300g plain flour|
|½ teaspoon baking powder|
|90g salted butter, cubed and softened|
|100g caster sugar|
|1 egg, lightly beaten|
|½ teaspoon vanilla extract|
- In a large mixing bowl, combine the butter and sugar with a wooden spoon, creaming them together until pale. Add the egg a little at a time, and then the vanilla extract.
- When the mixture is smooth, sieve in the flour and baking powder, and combine until everything forms a dough. These two steps can be done by hand or using an electric mixer.
- Wrap the dough in cling film or plastic-free food wrap, and chill in the fridge for 1-2 hours. When the dough is cold, heat the oven to 180ºC.
- On a clean floured surface, roll the dough into a sheet, approximately 5mm thick. Cut circular shapes using a biscuit cutter, or the rim of a drinking glass.
- Transfer the dough pieces to a baking tray lined with a piece of greaseproof paper.
- Gently place the cherry blossoms on the dough pieces, arranging them however you wish. Press the flowers firmly into the dough, taking care not to distort the circular biscuit shape.
- If you’ve taken longer than 10 minutes to complete steps 4-6, put the baking tray and dough shapes in the fridge for 15-20 minutes. Chilling the dough before cooking ensures that the biscuits keep their shape in the oven.
- Bake for 8-10 minutes, until golden. Transfer the biscuits to a wire rack, and allow to cool. They are best enjoyed on the day of cooking, but will keep for 3-4 days in an air-tight box.
TIP: When arranging the blossoms, pay attention to the stems – they are most likely to lift during cooking.
Cherry blossom jellies
Suspended in motion, the cherry blossom petals look like billowing tutus
|Makes 4 jellies|
|135g fruit-flavoured jelly cubes, such as Hartleys|
|4-12 preserved cherry blossom flowers, soaked to remove salt|
- According to the instructions on the jelly packet, dissolve the jelly cubes in hot water and dilute.
- Pour the liquid jelly mixture into four ramekins or small glasses, dividing it equally between them.
- Holding the cherry blossoms upside-down by their stems, gently lower them into the jelly mixture, allowing the petals to open in the liquid.
- To set the jellies, put them in the fridge according to the packet instructions.
TIP: Remove the jellies from the fridge five minutes before serving, to let the glass ‘demist’ at room temperature – otherwise, the blossoms won’t be clear.
Also read: 7 Japanese teas you need to try – and why
Cherry blossom rice
A colourful seasonal side-dish, to give dinner a little wow-factor
|Makes 2 portions|
|140g uncooked rice, any variety|
|15 preserved cherry blossom flowers, soaked to remove salt|
|1 drop of red food colouring|
- Pull the petals from 9 of the cherry blossoms, and set aside.
- Cook the rice as you would usually. When it is ready, add the cherry blossom petals to the pan/cooker and stir through.
- Drain the rice, and set aside half of the quantity in a separate bowl. In one half of the rice, add the food colouring and mix in well with a spoon.
- Arrange the rice on two plates, with a contrast of pink and white colours. Garnish with the remaining cherry blossoms on top.
Images credit: Hazel Plush