June Foraging: Elderflower

How to pick elderflowers & a delicious Elderflower Delight recipe

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Hayley Bisofsky Pope
Cornwall dweller, lifestyle blogger and founder of The Little Naturalists Club
10 June 2022

The sweetly scented and creamy white spray of elderflowers dominate the hedgerows this month. Once you familiarise yourself with its scent you may find yourself following its trail over fences and stiles in search of a new plant to forage from.

Identification

Older bushes can take on a tree like appearance but you probably won’t be able to see the trunk or branches like you would a tree. The key to identification is that elderflowers grow from the bush not from the ground like other white flowering plants such as cow parsley.

The smell is creamy, floral and summery. However, they are also known to smell like wee. The occasional plant can give off musty smells of urine and for obvious reasons these plants should be avoided for foraging purposes. Leave the flowers to mature into berries for the birds and go in search of another plant to forage the flowers from.

Handle with care

The pollen is what gives these flowers their smell and flavour so this is one plant that you should not wash when you get home, otherwise all of that gorgeous summery flavour will end up in the drain.

Pick them high enough and they will be out of the dog potty zone and make sure they’re not in a garden or area that would have been sprayed with any chemicals. Have a quick look through them for any obvious bugs that need removing and try not to shake too much of the pollen off whilst handling.

Advice for making cordial

There are many uses for elderflower. The most common one being to make elderflower cordial. I’ve made elderflower cordial every year for 15+ years until 10 litres of the stuff exploded in glass jars in my kitchen cabinet one year and we smelt it every day until we ripped the kitchen out 8 months later.

Thankfully we already had the refurb planned! Learn from my mistake and if you do choose to make cordial store it in plastic bottles 1/2 -3/4 full with the air squeezed out. This gives them room to expand as gas builds up and you can easily see as the bottles are getting fuller when you need to ‘burp’ the bottle to prevent an explosion.

Elderflower Delight

After our overdose on elderflower cordial we have chosen to make elderflower delight instead for the last couple of years. I have to say that this is a much more impressive use for the flower and makes for a beautiful gift for friends and family.

Elderflower Delight is essentially Turkish Delight but is flavoured with elderflower instead of rose.

River Cottage inspiration

The best recipe i’ve come across is John Wright’s recipe in the River Cottage Handbook No 7 – Hedgerows. However, you can also find it on their website here https://www.rivercottage.net/recipes/elderflower-delight

A caution to anyone attempting to switch out the gelatine for a vegan alternative. To date I haven’t found a way to make it work. Arrow root does thicken it up but the results are nowhere near as good as using real gelatine. Happy foraging!