This is the time of year that makes me so glad we spend the summers on Mackinac Island. The flowers are blooming everywhere. As it heats up, tulips are fading and the lily of the valley and periwinkle are in full force marching along pathways and roads, forming loose platoons of color, reminding you that they came first. Lilacs are blooming so lush and prolific that the scent is actually heavy in the air. My allergies are going crazy, but I don’t care. The scent is worth it. The view more beautiful than I could ever imagine.
This lilac festival is more crowded than ever. Crowds of people packed on main street, so overwhelmed by the beauty and so many things to see that they wander into the road forgetting to look for bicycles and horses. You can hardly blame them. The scent of lilacs is intoxicating, a heavy drug in the air, knocking all the sense out of the tourists.
And everywhere there are lilacs. In Marquette Park, the front yard of the Island, there are more than 75 varieties and 120 bushes according to authors Sue Allen and local “Lilac Man” Jeff Young. The authors have just published a book, “Lilacs: a Fortnight of Fragrance on Mackinac Island," that you can find at the Island Bookstore. While the authors knowledge of local lilacs seems endless, the beauty of the book lies in its photos by Jennifer Wohletz. The book is teeming with pictures celebrating the lavender-colored blooms. It seems she didn’t miss one of the 300 bushes that live on Mackinac Island.
Allen and Young say that the first lilacs were likely brought over in the suitcases of the French and Dutch immigrants in the early 1800’s. Now more than two centuries later, Mackinac Island boasts the oldest and largest bushes in the country. The bushes are so large, in fact, that they are often mistaken for trees.
Getting ready for these blog entries I have gorged myself, my husband and the neighbors on everything lilac. I have put the amethyst-colored simple syrup into vodka and soda, drizzled it into powdered sugar to make a glaze and even tried it in my coffee. (probably not a good idea, by the way).
I made lilac sugar not just once but twice, each using a different method. We tasted creamy, floral lilac ice cream and couldn't stop eating the addictive shortbread cookies bejeweled with tiny purple blooms. Each recipe was an experiment but also an adventure to see just how much floral flavor I could infuse. If you are inspired or have any lilac recipes of your own, I hope you will share them with me.
You can find the recipes by clicking here:
Sign up for the Everything-Mackinac.Com Blog here! And share this with all of your friends. I know they will be glad you did. You might also be interested in the Lilac Lemonade posting or the Grand Hotel Pecan Ball post. Check them out by clicking!