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Pickled Camellia Flowers

~ Pickled Camellia Flowers ~
Last winter I pickled Magnolia Flowers (you can find the recipe in my articles by searching for Magnolia). As they come into season it seemed timely to tell you about my adventures with Camellia flowers as well... The pickled flowers of both Magnolia and Camellia go down a treat at workshops, and I enjoy topping our homemade sushi with the petals infused with ginger.

At the end of last winter I wanted to make a few more jars to last, but I didn't have access to any fresh Magnolia flowers. However, I have an abundance of Camellia flowers in my garden, which are also edible. The previous owner of my garden went to town & planted over 30 different varieties of Camellia around the garden!! I don't think I would have gone that far, but I have come to appreciate their perrenial glossy leaves which make a great hedge, the dazzling display of colors all through winter, and now, their edible flowers!
There are over 250 known species of the genius Camellia and over 1000 different cultivars of Camellia sinensis alone. The sinensis variety is your traditional 'tea' tree, selected for it's high caffeine content. In fact there is no reason why you can't try making 'tea' out of your camellia leaves, they just won't taste the same as true tea, and there's a quite a lot of processing that takes place. Various varieties contain a medicinal properties, and with most the flowers are used as garnish or dried for tea, and an oil pressed from the seeds.
Last year I made a Camelia flower pickle, in the same way as the Magnolia flowers, and they work perfectly!
Here is how to pickle either Magnolia or Camellia petals.
Gather flowers when in their prime (healthy and blemish free, no bruises or markings). You'll need to pickle immediately so don't pick the flowers unless you're going to head straight into the kitchen. They wilt and turn brown extremely quickly, so this is really important or you'll just have a jar of brown goo. Gather the flowers in an open basket and do not squash or bruise in anyway.
In the kitchen, sterlise glass jars and pack full of petals (just the petals not the whole flower). A good tip to prevent the petals floating to the top, is to first stack all the petals on top of each other, roll into a roll of petals, and then slide into the jar so that they are wedged in vertically.
Cover the petals completely with your pickling solution - this can be as simple or creative as you like. You can use any vinegar that you have, I usually use Raw Apple Cider Vinegar because it's my favorite, but Rice Wine Vinegar is also highly reccomended for this recipe.
Simple: 1 cup vinegar + 1 tbsp cup sugar + 1 tbsp salt (mix and tip over petals).
Sweet: 1 cup vinegar + 1/2 cup sugar + 1 tbsp salt (mix and tip over petals).
Ginger: 1 cup vinegar + 1/2 cup sugar + 1 tbsp salt + 1 cm finely sliced ginger (mix and tip over petals. You can use more ginger but I later found the ginger overpowered the magnolia).
Cardamom: any recipe above + a couple of cardamom pods.
Once the petals are completely covered in pickling solution, put on a tight fitting lid and leave in a dark cupboard for a few months for flavors to develop before opening. Once open store in the fridge.
Something that I love about preserving in vinegar is that it has a verrrry long shelf life, I've yet to preserve something in vinegar and have it go bad. So whilst all recipes will say consume within 12 months, this will likely last a lot longer!