Himalayan Balsam is for me the definitive smell of childhood summers.
I’m from a big family so expensive trips to theme parks and holidays abroad were off the cards for us. Instead our school summer holidays were filled with days out in local beauty spots. I believe I owe my love of wildlife, plants and foraging to those days out.
Sometimes we’d pick blackberries, sometimes we’d picnic and sometimes we’d just walk as far as the littlest child’s feet could carry them. Always (at least it seems so in my memory) our paths were lined with these glorious pink flowers.
Orchid-like and with the sweetest sugariest smell, Himalayan Balsam are sneaky. They look so beautiful that you’d never know they were bullies! Thought to have been introduced by Victorian plant hunters, Himalayan balsam are taking over the countryside causing problems in waterways and pushing many of our native species out.
Like most responsible grown ups, my mum would tell us off if we picked Himalayan balsam. One shouldn’t pick wildflowers she would say, but should instead leave them for other people and wildlife to enjoy.
These days you’re likely to see me and many other conservationists pulling them up by their roots. In fact it’s illegal to propagate these flowers.
So you are positively encouraged to pick Himalayan balsam and make something delicious from them. And why not gin 😁
Himalayan Balsam gin tastes much like pink gin but somehow more ‘botanical’. It’s a beautiful shade of pink which gets brighter if you add tonic. Just be mindful that you don’t accidentally transport seeds to your garden!!
You will need
Around 2 litres or 4 pints of Himalayan balsam flowers
1 litre of gin
2 table spoons caster sugar
- Select only undamaged flowers and place them in a large jar
- Add the zest if two limes and the juice of one lime
- Pour over the gin, seal and leave to infuse for at least 24 hours – maximum 36 hours
- Place a muslin cloth or alternatively a clean cotton handkerchief over a sieve and put the gin through the dive into a clean bowl
- Add the sugar to the bowl and stir until the sugar dissolves.
- Leave for at least another 24 hours to make sure the sugar is completely dissolved.
I like to drink this with 2 parts gin, 1 part lemonade, 3 parts tonic and a slice of lime. It’s such a light, grown up tasting drink and the perfect solution for those bully balsam that poo up everywhere.
Love Rachel ❤️