My children, like many, adore a sno-cone. They’ll slurp at a sugary, syrupy, bright red and blue mound of ice in a paper cone until the flavors run out or their hands are too sticky, whichever comes first. On beach days, they delight in the rainbow-hued offerings of the folks who walk the city beaches and sell multi-colored Italian ice from insulated carts with umbrellas overhead and wide tires down below.
In the world of parenting little kids while also making an effort to keep them mindful of our impact on our increasingly compromised planet, I sometimes feel like I say a lot of nos. Avoiding plastics when we can means forgoing much of the brightly colored and shiny goods traditionally marketed to kids. Much of the time my kids take it in stride; sometimes they just really want a technicolored icy scooped into a plastic Dixie cup and served with a tiny plastic spoon. In the face of a warming planet some synthetic food dye and a few plastic spoons over the course of the summer are surely not the most pressing matters, and sometimes we definitely indulge.
Still, it’s fun to be able to practice my own at-home magic and present my kids with a treat as colorful as the cotton candy-flavored swirls of pink and blue they covet. We’ve been brewing butterfly pea flower sun tea since I came home with the flowers from the herb shop last week. For the uninitiated, butterfly pea flowers make a bright blue tisane when steeped in water. The plant (Clitoria ternatea) is native to tropical Asia and traditionally served as a tea with lemon and honey.
Earlier this week I saw that Meredith Bay-Tyack mentioned toting butterfly pea flower lemonade with her to a weekend party and it occurred to me that lemony popsicles in a psychedelic-looking shade of purple might just be able to compete with sno-cones for attention. It’s ungodly hot in New York this week, and even more so elsewhere, so here’s how to make a refreshing treat at home. (Plus, a few things to do to help folks suffering in this extreme heat.)
+ Lemonade (you can make your own favorite recipe or buy a carton of the sugary stuff from the grocery store like we did).
+ Add about a tablespoon of butterfly pea flowers per cup of water to a large glass jar and let the tisane steep in a sunny spot for a few hours.
+ The water will relatively quickly turn light blue and will eventually deepen to a truly remarkable navy color.
+ After the tea has steeped in the sun for a few hours, strain it through a sieve and compost the plant material.
+ Depending on how sweet you’d like your popsicles, mix together the Butterfly Pea Flower tisane and lemonade in a ratio of roughly 1:1.
+ The acidic lemonade will turn the dark blue tea into a bright purple.
+ Pour the liquid into a popsicle mold and freeze.
+ The resulting popsicles are sweet but not too sweet. The butterfly pea flowers lend a slightly earthy taste to the mixture in addition to the color, but it’s not so much that anyone really notices or seems to mind. You can certainly play with proportions and particulars here. The main thing to know is that you can make bright purple popsicles at home with little expense and much delight for the people around you.
+ Unhoused folks are at significant risk during periods of extreme heat like the one that much of the country is currently experiencing. This is not the time (nor is it ever) to tsk-tsk about other peoples’ single-use plastic water bottles. Instead, if you’re able, freeze water bottles and hand-deliver them to unhoused neighbors in need or coordinate with a local mutual aid organization to see if there’s a way you can help folks in your community.
+ Call your congress members and ask that they help pass the Asuncion Valdivia Heat Illness and Fatality Prevention Act, which would require the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) to implement a national heat stress standard and help protect outdoor workers from extreme temperatures.
+ The climate crisis is here and we all need to address it. How To Save a Planet is one of my favorite podcasts for getting informed (and staying hopeful) about what we, collectively, need to do.