The English summer is thought to start when the elder blossoms end and the berries ripen. The citrus aroma floating down country lanes also heralds a bountiful harvest for the forager and home-brewer. Elderflower cordial costs more as the bottles get smarter and it’s seen as a luxury, which seems ludicrous to me, as I know that you can make it for next to nothing!
Elderflower cordial is a wonderful base for all sorts of culinary treats............lemonade, sorbet, mousses, jelly, desserts, beverages, glazes etc. It is very easy to make, although you need to plan ahead as the flowers need to be steeped in the sugar mixture for four days. The flowers taste best picked early on a dry, hot day, and speed is crucial: they should be used straight after picking. The cream-coloured heads (or umbels) are tastier than the white, and don’t worry if they smell unappetising at first once they’re infused, the heady scent is delicious.Choose umbels free of discolouring and keep them dry until you’re ready to begin.
* One name for it is the Judas Tree, as it was thought to be the tree Judas Iscariot hanged himself from
* To fell a tree without suitable protection could free a spirit called the Elder Mother to take her revenge
* The elderflower was said to be a protection against witches, and a knotted twig kept in the pocket was a charm against rheumatism
* Elderflowers were apparently never struck by lightning, and a cross of elder fastened above stables would protect the animals from evil Medicinal benefits
* Elderflower cordials and elderberry wines are high in vitamins A, B and C
* In A Modern Herbal of 1931, Mrs Grieves recommends an elderflower infusion, taken hot before bed, as a remedy for colds and throat trouble
* Mrs Grieves swears by elder leaves as an insect deterrent. The foul-smelling bruised leaves around tender plants and buds prevent attack by aphids and cater-pillars, and gardeners can add a sprig to their hatband to ward off midges
* Medical herbalist Christine Houghton says a daily elderflower infusion, made with fresh flowers, is helpful in preventing hay fever