We cannot bee.

I’m cheating. The lily photograph here doesn’t quite represent today’s topic, but when I walk by them bobbing along the roadside, they always trigger my happy memories of flower sucking. Flower sucking sounds like an obscure sixties bong game, doesn’t it? Puts Flower Power in a whole new light. Groovy.

There’s an orange flower similar to this lily that, unlike the one pictured, can be pulled out of its stem. If you suck the tubular base of the flower, a sweet drop of nectar coats your tongue. As a kid, I sucked a lot of flowers before I stumbled on this mother lode. It’s fun as long as you don’t suck too hard and inhale the stamens, not that I’ve ever done that and coughed for ten minutes straight. No sir.

Flower sucking might be a popular pastime for many people, but I wouldn’t know because when I was a kid I believed that my friend Jennifer and I invented it. We were kids. Everything we did, we did first, and if you told us otherwise, you risked breaking our hearts. Most of the time we sucked field clover‘s countless tiny tubular petals because of the clover’s long season and its abundance in empty lots. The amount of nectar in clover didn’t come close to the amount you got from the rarer orange flowers, but that was okay, the tease of sugar kept us going.

orange lilyOne day we realized that we could do something that nobody had ever done before or even thought of doing before: We would collect all this free clover nectar to make homemade honey. Genius. People at school would be talking about it for decades. Why, we’d revolutionize the honey industry! Jen’s mom walked into the kitchen to find a gigantic pile of weeds on the kitchen table and two grubby girls bent over an empty yellow margarine tub. I imagine that bugs from our haul were crawling all over her clean floor.

“What are you doing?” she asked.

Jen, carefully squeezing one of the tiny clover petals in the tub, sighed deeply. “We’re making honey, mom.”

Only my manners kept me from adding, “Duh.” But I may have rolled my eyes.

The plan bombed. The sweetness that we pressed out onto our tongues under our teeth wouldn’t squeeze out into something that we could see. The margarine tub mocked us with its empty hugeness waiting to be filled with our bounty. We couldn’t even get our fingers damp. Our brilliant dream died and withered like so many dismembered purple clover heads.

Score: Man 0, Nature 1


bullet Food whores d’Å“uvre recs
Very cool fried elderflower in Munich, from the gorgeous delicious:days.
A roundup of recipes and photos using flowers, from the always-thoughtful Tigers & Strawberries.
bullet Tip du jour
Rose petals are edible and make a lovely garnish, but nearly all roses for sale have been heavily sprayed with pesticides. Stick to roses from your garden (if you’re lucky enough to have one) unless you have a safe source.

5 thoughts on “We cannot bee.

  1. Greetings from Down Under! Stumbled here from Grab Your Fork. Great photos. Enjoyed this entry so much … even I loved to pick flowers and drink “flower juice”… my favourite flowers were petunias … I had completely forgotten this childhood memory so thank you for reminding me!

  2. Thank you! You ruined my illusion that we were the only ones to try flowers like that, but oh well, we all have to grow up. I never tried petunias, will give that a go.

    I love Austrailia–visited last year and had a great time.

  3. Hi! Saw your web site linked on Cream Puffs and have been enjoying your writing since. I live in the South, and we did the same – flower sucking – with honeysuckle. Is that what you’re talking about? Small, yellow and white flowers that grow on a vine? I probably ate enough to get sick as a dog, but it’s engrained in my memory and every summer when I smell their potent fragrance, it’s like I’m 10 again!

  4. We had honeysuckle growing in our front yard when I was young. My siblings and I used to fight over the little white flowers, although I didn’t think I invented it. My Texan babysitter told me about it, and I unknowingly said honeysuckle with a Texan accent until I was about 12 because I didn’t know the proper way.

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