As I mentioned in my post about gathering wild garlic, one of my hopes this year is to learn more about wildcrafting and foraging and use these herbs and flowers for both culinary, magical and medicinal uses. June and July is elderflower season; native to Britain, elderflower is a large bush found mostly in woodlands, scrubland and hedgerows and both the flowers and the berries can be used for both culinarily and medicinally as well as magically, and it is even host to the Jelly Ear Fungus!
The elderflower bush that we had our eye on is perched on the edge of a hill overlooking Hebden Valley in the little village of Heptonstall (a hugely magical and interesting little village, which I'll be making a post about in the coming weeks) It's an large old tree, with lichen covered branches and I got the sense that it had been there for quite some time, watching over the horses in the adjacent field and the walkers as they ramble along the cliffs.
Large soft creamy frothy heads of tiny delicate flowers decorate the elder bush, and the scent of sweet, floral honey shimmers around it whenever you draw near to a tree in bloom (be careful not to mistake plants such as hemlock or hogweed for elderflower-although the scent should be the best indicator that you've found the right plant! This guide to identification should help if you're unsure.) I adore anything elderflower; elderflower lemonade or cordial is generally my drink of choice; it's like faery nectar, evocative of long, hazy summer days, and it's folklore is rich; amongst its many associations, it is said that sleeping beneath the elder tree at Midsummer would enable you to see faerie, and that a witch can turn herself into and elder tree. It is also a tree of great protective properties, believed to keep away evil spirits.
Elderflower is best on a sunny morning (before the bees have taken their pollen for their own) after a few days worth of good weather, when the blossoms are said to be at their best. We took trips up to the tree over the course of about three weeks, each time, desperately hoping for the elderflower to be in bloom, only to be disappointed until just last Tuesday, after a spell of good weather, we approached the elderlower bush with a lot of the flowers fully opened; such an abundance! We gathered enough to make what we needed, (around 25 heads a piece) leaving plenty for the bees, and to ensure that we would then get berries later in the year so we can try our hand at making an elderberry wine!
Elderflower Cordial Recipe (vegan)
Makes approx 1.5 litres. Takes around 40 minutes to prepare.
25 elderflower heads
1.5 litres water
1kg golden caster sugar
55g citric acid
2-4 organic unwaxed lemons
- We took home our bounty and, after a little shake to ensure that no little beasties were lurking within (washing the flowers ruins them somewhat), snipped off the flower heads into a bowl before adding slices of an unwaxed organic lemon.
- In a large saucepan, we brought the water to a boil before adding the golden caster sugar and stirring until it was fully dissolved into a sugar syrup and then added the citric acid.
- The sugar syrup was then pored over the elderflower heads and unwaxed lemon and covered up and left to steep for 48 hours.
- We then strained the mixture through sterilised muslin and poured the cordial into our sterilised bottles using a funnel.
Keep your cordial refrigerated and use within 6 weeks.
Have you tried making Elderflower Cordial before?
Disclaimer: Please be careful when when picking wild plants and flowers; be sure that they have been correctly identified before eating them. Attend a course, consult a professional or use a plant guide if you are in anyway uncertain. Don’t die!