Elderflower season is upon us
The fragrant sign of summer
The elderflower season is here.
From late May until August every year, the hedgerows are awash with the cream, frothy flowers of the elder. Their scent is sweet and fragrant and it is a wonderful time to be out in the countryside.
You’ll find elders growing wild in hedgerows and in woodland, alongside country roads, lanes and railway lines.
Traditionally, the flowers are used to make cordial, but there is so much more that you can do with them.
They can be baked into biscuits or cakes, used to flavour champagne or gin, and some people deep fry them to make fritters. You can also make a jam that tastes of the summer itself.
The time to pick elderflowers is during the month of June when the flowers are at their best. Always remember to have the landowner's permission to harvest and don’t pick flowers next to a busy road, where they may have absorbed the pollution fumes.
When harvesting the flowers, pick only what you need and always ensure to leave some for wildlife. Flowers that are left on the tree and pollinated will turn into berries, making them an excellent food source for birds later in the season.
Venture out on a sunny and dry day for your harvest, and always leave habitats as you find them. When picking the flowers, simply cut them off with scissors or snips at the base of the flowers where they meet the main stem.
Choose flowers that are at their freshest by looking for the pollen. If there is no lovely, yellow pollen, then it is best to leave those flowers alone. Also, look for flowers that are starting to open up. Leave those that are still in bud to pick another day.
The healing history
For a long time in history, it is has been thought that elderflowers have valuable, medicinal properties.
Elderflower and water were a common remedy to treat all kinds of maladies, as well as the flowers being thought of as anti-inflammatory.
Anglo-Saxon folklore said that you would be taken into the world of the fairies if you fell asleep under an elder tree. And one planted by your house would help to keep the devil away.
Elderflowers have long been regarded as a favourite with foragers because of their versatility and their very essence of summer. Happy foraging!