Spring for Honeysuckle Ice Cream

Everyone screams for Big Spoon Creamery’s sweet floral treat

An illustration of a honeysuckle flower

Illustration: John Burgoyne

While walking her rescue dog, Charlie, around her Birmingham, Alabama, neighborhood on a spring morning, Geri-Martha O’Hara passed a big honeysuckle bush bursting with blooms. One deep inhale of the aromatic blossoms and she knew just what to use for her next ice cream flavor. “I first experienced honeysuckle as a child, picking the blooming flowers and eating the nectar,” says O’Hara, who, along with her husband, Ryan, owns Big Spoon Creamery‘s three Alabama ice cream shops. “Those spring days spent outdoors in the South are such a beautiful core memory, and I have loved the smell and flavor of honeysuckle from that moment.” Honeysuckle grows wild across the region; Japanese honeysuckle, her favorite for ice cream, is one of the most prevalent varieties. The blooms start appearing on bushes in the spring and stick around until they burn out in the summer heat.

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At Big Spoon, the couple focus on taking what they get fresh from farmers—or forage themselves, in the case of honeysuckle—to churn into ice cream or sorbet. The key to capturing the flowers’ essence is to steep them in hot milk before straining the liquid for the ice cream’s base. “The white floral notes are similar to a gardenia and add great complexity and depth of flavor,” O’Hara says. “It is the perfect scoop on a Southern spring day.” When harvesting honeysuckle, pinch off just the blossom (not the leaves) and be sure to get the entire bud (the nectar is at the bottom of the flower). For maximum flower power, steep the blooms the same day you pick them. You will need an ice cream maker, but O’Hara’s home version of the recipe is surprisingly simple. “Making ice cream at home doesn’t have to be overly complicated,” she says. “It’s worth the time and effort, and it’s a great family activity using an ingredient that may be growing in your backyard.”

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  • Honeysuckle Ice Cream (Yield: 2 quarts)

    • 1 cup loosely packed honeysuckle blossoms, rinsed and patted dry

    • 5 cups milk

    • 1 cup heavy cream

    • 1½ cups sugar

    • 8 egg yolks, whisked

    • ¾ cup nonfat milk powder


  1. Add blossoms and milk to a medium pot and heat over medium until the milk begins to steam. Turn off the heat, cover, and let the blossoms steep for 15 minutes, then strain the milk. Return the infused milk to the pot along with heavy cream and sugar, and heat until the mixture reaches 170°F. Slowly pour in whisked egg yolks and continue heating until the mixture reaches 185°F. Whisk in nonfat milk powder to finish the ice cream base. Remove from heat and mix well with a whisk, or, preferably, an immersion blender to ensure everything is well incorporated.

  2. Cover and transfer to the refrigerator to cool—stirring occasionally—for at least 4 hours or, ideally, 24 hours to allow the base to mature (you can store it in the refrigerator for up to 5 days before churning). Pour the base into your ice cream maker and churn according to the manufacturer’s instructions. Serve immediately or store in the freezer until ready to use.