Whilst walking in the Italian countryside this weekend I noticed just how many beautiful, creamy acacia flowers there are hanging in bunches from the trees that line the roadsides. Maybe it was the lockdown and the slower pace of life with which its come to be associated, maybe it was the burst of Spring sunshine which brought out their honeyed heady perfume, maybe it was the buzzing of the bees flying from flower to flower…in any event they definitely caught my attention and back home I tried to find out more.
It turns out that the robinia – otherwise known as ‘black locust’ or ‘false acacia’ – was introduced to Europe from North America in 1601 by the botanist Jean Robin who was a herbalist and gardener to the French kings. The first robinia was planted in Paris and its thought that all European acacia are descended from that tree. Although the acacia is often regarded as a problematic and invasive species it forms the basis of some of the best known and appreciated Italian honeys. The Italians also dip them in batter to create fritta di acacia (acacia fritters) which of course I had to try!
12 clusters of acacia flowers 4tbsp plain flour 1tsp baking powder 1 egg 50ml cold beer 50ml water 1tbsp sugar 1tsp ground cinnamon Vegetable or sunflower oil for frying
First wash the flowers and set them on aside for 30 minutes. This will give any insects time to crawl out so you don’t end up eating them as well!
Next make the batter. Put the flour and baking powder in a bowl, add the egg and mix together. Then add the water little by little to avoid lumps, whisking in the beer at the end to give a thick creamy batter. Dip the flowers in the batter allowing any excess mixture to drip off so the fritter is not too ‘doughy’.
Heat the oil in a pan and cook in batches, turning them over mid way through until they are crisp and golden. Remove and place on plate sprinkled with the caster sugar and cinnamon, coating each side.
The fritters are best served hot, biting the flowers away from the stems to savour the flesh of the petals.