Sweet heavens… Every spring we get excited when we see clusters of white flowers hanging in the trees… Because that means, it’s acacia fritter time! Easy and quick to make and super indulgent, acacia flower fritters are a perfect reason to spend some time outside foraging. Yum!
Spring is such a wonderful time for foraging! All the plants start to shoot out of the ground and flower… We have already picked some wild garlic and made lovely wild fennel pasta. Of course, we also like the fruits of summer and autumn, and it’s been too long since we last enjoyed a bowl of Wild Chanterelle Mushroom Goulash. But after the winter, it is just so nice to see the natural world come back to life. In our campervan Ronnie, we travel around the continent of Europe and learn to make the most of the different local habitats. Every place has different things to offer at different times of the year. And while in England, Austria or most of France acacia trees won’t flower until later in spring, the air is filled with the sweet scent of acacia flowers in Spain, Portugal and Italy.
Foraging Acacia Flowers
I have been eating acacia flowers since I was a child. In our garden, an Acacia tree would cast its shade on us kids playing underneath in the warm air of early summer. I remember trolling about in a sand box and going round and round on an inappropriately used toy seesaw, all whilst looking up at the clusters of white flowers on the tree. And I still remember my dad informing us that you can actually eat the flowers, straight from the tree! A memory that stuck. Every spring, I have been thinking of this, whenever I see the first acacia trees in bloom.
Acacia trees as we know them in Europe are, strictly speaking, a species dubbed false acacia. Robinia pseudoacacia, also known as black locust, was brought to Europe centuries ago by a gardener of the king of France as a decorative plant. Since then it has spread all across the continent. It is very resilient and can grow on poor soil. Bacteria on its roots fix nitrogen for them. The false acacia thrives so well in various conditions, it is even considered an invasive species. In Europe, where most people have never seen a “real” acacia tree, Robinia pseudoacacia is widely known simply as acacia. So I will go on calling it that, too.
The leaves of Robinia pseudoacacia are a good way to identify the false acacia tree when it is not flowering. Look for their characteristic oval leaves.
Rarely you can find acacia trees bearing pink flowers. Some research suggests these are hybrids resulting from a different species of Robinia grafted onto the root of R. Pseudoacacia. Our research was inconclusive about whether it is absolutely safe to eat the pink flowers for sure. We have eaten them, and haven’t died, nor shown any other symptoms, but don’t take our word for it. However, NEVER EVER eat yellow flowers that look like acacia flowers. They are probably poisonous. Your best bet is to stick to the white flowers, and you are safe. ;-) As always when foraging, make sure you are certain you have made the right identification.
Be careful when you pick the flowers, as the twigs of the acacia tree are equipped with pain-bearing spikes. Acacia flowers are at their prime when they have fully opened, looking soft and fresh, and have not yet started to wither or brown. It is hard to over-pick acacia flowers, so you can pick a basketful of flowers and then choose the best ones to make fritters. The flowers are edible, but don’t eat the stalks or leaves, as they are inedible. Acacia flowers are best used and eaten fresh, within the first few hours of picking them from the trees.
Acacia flowers taste great straight off the tree, and I encourage everyone to try them. They are very tasty raw! Only recently did I learn that they also make incredible fritters! In Italy they are know as frittelle di acacia and in France they call them beignets d’acacia.
Our vegan acacia fritters recipe is so simple and quick, that you can go from tree to plate in about 15 minutes! We fry the flowers in beer batter to bring out even more of their fruity, sweet and bloomy aroma, while transforming them into a proper pudding dish.
How do you make vegan acacia flower fritters?
The batter is easy to whip up. Half a cup of beer to half a cup of flour makes sufficient batter to make about 10 – 12 acacia flower fritters. A bit of baking powder is optional but helps make the acacia fritters lighter and crisper. Too much baking powder will result in a bitter taste and funny feeling on the tongue. About half a teaspoon in half a cup of flour is a good amount.
When it comes to the choice of beer, I would always choose a light coloured beer over dark beer. Malt beers will obviously add a sweet note to the acacia fritters.
We have – very successfully – used non-alcoholic beer (or as close as you can get in South Europe, often around 0,5% alc.vol.). What you really want from the beer is the fizz, along with some flavour. Having almost given up on alcohol in the last year or so, I find it great that there are so many non alcoholic beers on the market. It also means I don’t have to get slightly drunk just to use up the beer that is leftover from making the acacia flower fritters :-p
When the batter is done – smooth, thick but just a bit runny – dip the whole heads of flowers into the batter, covering them entirely. But I don’t like to overload the flower heads with batter. Especially when the batter is a bit on the thick side, I like to wait and let some of it drip back into the bowl when I transfer the battered flower heads into the frying pan. Or I just gently wipe it off the flower head between my fingers. Messy, but quicker.
Heat up some oil in a frying pan. You will want enough oil to cover all the bottom side of the fritters. That brings the crispest and tastiest results! Fry the acacia flower fritters on both sides until crisp and yummy brown. If they come out too pale, turn up the heat!
Mmmmmh, now you can see why we are raging about acacia flower fritters, right? Simple, tasty, special! To make them perfect, sprinkle some sugar on top and drizzle a few drops of lemon on them. The lemon is a most recent development that we tried just the other day. Oooh, sweet heavens, were those acacia fritters delicious! I can’t imagine having them without again!
Beer-battered acacia flower fritters are a most indulgent way of enjoying these sweet flowers. Being so easy to make, they have quickly earned a permanent place on our spring menu. Try our recipe and you will see why!
Acacia Flower Fritters
- 1/2 cup plain flour
- 1/2 tsp baking powder optional
- 1/2 cup beer
- 10-12 acacia flowers freshly picked
- 1 tbsp brown sugar
- 1/2 lemon
- vegetable oil for frying
- Shake and inspect your acacia flowers to remove any dirt or little bugs.
- Make the batter by combining flour (baking powder if using) and beer. Whisk throughly until smooth, you should have a runny, slightly thick batter.
- Holding the stalk dip the flowers in the batter and let any excess run off.
- Heat up a large frying pan, with enough oil in it to cover the base. You can test the oil is hot enough by dripping a bit of batter in and it will fizz and start to brown when it’s ready.
- Fry the fritters on a medium/high heat, until the underside is golden brown, turn them over and repeat. Add more oil if you need to cook another batch.
- Best eaten when very soon after cooking. Sprinkle with brown sugar and a drizzle of lemon. Enjoy your delicious mouthful of acacia flower goodness!
Paul and Sophie