Elderflower, my favourite forage of the year

Nothing else quite marks the beginning of summer for me like stumbling across freshly bloomed elderflower blossoms. Often, you smell it before you see it, the unique and distinctive scent wafting across the morning breeze, ideally with blazing blue skies overhead and bird song from the nearby trees.

You don’t have to venture far outside of suburbia to find this common species, the elder tree or often, bush (latin name: sambucus nigra) grows indiscriminately in parks and along the side of roads, making it an easy fauna to access for foraging purposes. It’s easily identifiable by the scent and the flat-topped clusters of tiny, cream coloured flowers. Loved by people and insects alike, this was the first thing my children could reliably identify (blackberries not included) and their excitement almost matches mine upon the first sighting each year.

It’s such a versatile flower and the list of things you can make with it are endless; a quick search on the internet will leave you with hundreds of recipes, from elderflower champagne to panna cotta, ice cream and so many cocktails you’d be spoilt for choice! In our house, as we are creatures of habit, we always make the same two things; elderflower fritters and the fast disappearing, elderflower cordial.

Fritters were first tasted at Forest School and although, arguably, that’s where they taste best…they are still easily replicated at home. The batter is so simple, we shared it last year in this blog post but you can simplify it even further to just flour, a pinch of baking powder and some water and it’ll still do the job! My tip is to leave a decent length stem on each flower head then you can use that to dip them in the batter and then into the pan for some light deep frying.

Cordial, however, is in my humble opinion, where it’s at. There are a lot of recipes out there, but I thought I’d share my no fuss, fail-safe version in case you fancied giving it a go.

This recipe usually makes me about a litre to a litre and a half of cordial, depending on how much water I put in initially.

  • Firstly, get out and pick yourself 20-30 big flower heads of elderflower. Once home, give them a gentle wash to get any pesky insects off and put them in a big bowl.
  • Grate the zest of a lemon and a couple of limes over the flowers and cover them with boiling water, filling the bowl completely. Leave to steep overnight.
  • Next day, use a muslin or sieve to drain the steeped water into a pan, add the juice of the grated lemon and limes from the day below and about 750g sugar.
  • Bring the mixture to the boil, stirring regularly until the sugar has completely dissolved. Keep on a rolling boil for 10-15 minutes before turning the pan off.
  • Once cool, decant into a bottle and you’re ready to go!

You’ve probably still got a week or so of elderflower picking before they turn so why not get out there, pick some when you spot then and give this a go? We’d love to hear how you get on! Or if you have any favourite, tried and tested recipes…please share them in the comments below!

Author: Hannah Durdin
Date: Tuesday 23 June 2020

2 Responses

  1. My gran use to make elderflower wine every year! I would help her pick them. Great memories (and some tipsy ones!) I might try the cordial with my little ones!

    1. I want to try elderflower wine but tales of exploding bottles have put me off! I bet your little ones would love cordial though 🙂

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