With elderflower season now well underway, we thought we’d celebrate all the diverse uses and benefits of this ancient British flower.
Elderflowers have many different culinary uses from drinks to desserts (including the Wedding Cake of the Duke and Duchess of Sussex!) and if you want to dip your toe into the world of foraging, they're a great place to start.
The elderflower is the jewel in the crown of many foragers. It can be found in woods and along roadside hedgerows across the UK.
From late May you’ll see masses of tiny white flowers hanging in sprays which develop into purple elderberries later in the summer. With their large and flat surface, elderflowers are hard to miss, especially with their vibrantly white colour and floral scent.
The elderflower is an ancient plant, native to the UK, with a fascinating history. The elder tree which the elderflower originates from has many associations in folklore, particularly the Anglo-Saxons who believed if you were to fall asleep under one of these trees, you would be protected from evil spirits.
Seen as a protective tree, the elder tree was viewed as sacred by many country folks who wouldn’t cut or burn the wood of the tree in fear of upsetting it and bringing bad luck upon themselves.
Elderflowers have long been believed to have medicinal and healing properties. The elderflower has anti-septic and anti-inflammatory properties and has been used as an ‘at home’ remedy for centuries. Elderflower is now used as an old-fashioned remedy to treat anything from the common cold to hay fever and even some forms of arthritis.
There are lots simple and delicious ways of eating the flowers and the fruits. The flowers and berries are the only edible part of the plant, which are best picked when the buds are freshly open.
The fragrant flowers are most famous for making elderflower cordial – with its light and floral taste, it makes the perfect summer drink. You can drink it chilled, diluted with water or add a drop to dry white wine. Or why not try your hand at making elderflower wine or liqueur?
A drop of elderflower can be added to gin to add a soft freshness to the drink, as other botanical flowers are often too perfumed. You can also make elderflower tea from an infusion of the fresh flowers.
Elderflowers also make a delicious addition to fruity, creamy desserts. Try adding a couple of sprigs of elderflower when you’re cooking fruit for tarts and crumbles for a delicate summery flavour (remember to remove them at the end though). Or stir a few flowers into cake mixtures to give them a light, sweet scent.