When I set out to create this Himalayan Balsam Gin recipe I had no idea of the surprise that was lying in wait for me. Read on to discover how to make a genuinely magical colour changing gin infusion.
You may well have heard of Himalayan Balsam (Impatiens glandulifera) as it increasingly features in our press. It is a non-native, highly invasive weed that damages the habitats it finds itself in by crowding out our native species. Often seen by rivers, streams and canals, it causes bank erosion and contributes to flooding due to clogging up waterways. It is now increasingly being spotted in hedgerows along roadsides where it is proving to be just as damaging.
What you may not know about Himalayan Balsam is that it is a highly edible plant. The green seed pods, seeds, young leaves and shoots are all edible and are traditionally used in curries in its native Himalayan region. The flowers are also edible and are used in jellies and wines. Although I found a reference to a distillery adding dried Himalayan Balsam flowers to one of its gins to create a limited pink edition, but they didn’t share their recipe, so I decided to create my own. Little did I know the surprise this unpopular but beautiful flower had in store for me!
We collected our flowers from a stretch of the disused Thames and Severn Canal in the Cotswold Water Park where they grow in profusion. Please note that the seed pods of this plant explode on touch when ripe scattering seeds over a vast area. This method of seed dispersal is one of the reasons that the plant is so successful. I should point out that it is actually illegal to propagate Himalayan Balsam in any way due to it’s invasive and destructive nature so please handle the plant with care. That being said we managed to collect a 2-litre container of the Himalayan Balsam flowers without touching any seed heads so don’t be put off collecting them.
Our Magical Himalayan Balsam Gin Recipe
We cut any green from the base of the flower and popped them all in a jar with the lime zest and gin and left to infuse a dark, cool place for 24 hours. When then strained the gin into a clean jar, added the sugar and gave it a shake to dissolve.
Our resulting Himalayan Balsam Gin is a pale amber colour much like a traditional pink gin made from Angostura bitters. The flowers have imparted a slight floral taste which combines well with the lime.
But the real surprise is still to come. When you add a tonic to our Himalayan Balsam Gin something magical happens. It turns a stunning, vibrant pink as shown in the video above. I have no idea of the chemical in the tonic which is responsible for the reaction, but I have tried 3 different brands so far, and they all work. (The things I do for science!)
We’d love to hear what you think if you make your own Himalayan Balsam Gin, or indeed of any other wildflower infusions. And if you are looking for some more wild booze inspiration check out our Wild Horseradish and Ground Ivy Vodka and our unique Christmas Spirit inspired by all the flavours and smells of Christmas.