You are cordially invited for a bit of Elderflower Foraging – visit your nearest hedgerow or wasteland plot and look for a large shrub with flat white blossoms during late May and June. They are fairly common and distinctive, but check the photos to ensure you have the right plant. You should be able to pick a basket full while leaving plenty of flower heads left over for the Autumn berries.
This week the elderflowers have suddenly come out – although it is best to pick them on a sunny morning when the flowers are at their most potent and flavourful, so maybe wait for this northerly wind to die down.
Elderflower cordial is simple to make and is refreshing and delicious. You can drink it with water, or add it to gin for a superb G&T. You can eat the flower heads when dipped in a runny tempura batter (100g self raising, 100ml water, 50ml beer – whisk till smooth.) and deep fried, either as a snack (with chilli, salt and pepper) or as a pudding accompaniement to something like gooseberry fool if you dust them with icing sugar.
You can also make a tea by infusing 2-4 flower heads in boiling water for 10 minutes before straining. Elderflower has many health benefits that explain why it’s so popular in folklore. It is known for its antiseptic and anti-inflammatory properties, good for colds and sinus infections, as well as alleviating allergies and boosting the immune system. It also helps reduce blood sugar levels in a similar way to insulin.
So generally it’s a win – win situation: a free, tasty, healthy and sustainable wild plant that suits everyone, from the tea taker to the gin guzzler, savoury or sweet. It’s easy to identify and pick.
Here’s a great Elderflower Cordial recipe from Sophie Grigson:
- 20 elderflower heads (I forgot to keep counting and used half of the basketful I’d gathered)
- 4 lemons
- 2 oranges
- 1.8 kg granulated sugar
- 1.2l water
Place the sugar in the water in a saucepan and bring to the boil, stirring until all the sugar is dissolved. While the water is heating, place the elderflowers in a large bowl and cut the zest off the oranges and lemons and add to elderflowers. Cut the ends off the citrus fruit and discard, then slice and add to contents of bowl. Pour the boiling sugar syrup over the elderflowers and citrus fruits. Cover the bowl and place in a cool place for 24 hours. I put a plate on the top of the bowl to keep the citrus fruit submerged in the syrup. After 24 hours strain (eat the orange slices – they are amazing!). Strain twice more using either muslin or kitchen paper. Makes 4 pints of cordial. Pour into sterilized glass jars or plastic jars and freeze. Keep in the fridge and dilute to taste. It tastes good with fizzy water. Serve in glass jugs with slices of lemon and a sprig of mint.