Elderflower is the symbol of British middle class summertime. Even the word elderflower sounds fancy doesn’t it? Usually the first thing that comes to mind when thinking of the flower is a quintessential British garden party, floral dresses, extremely oversized hats and elderflower gin in the hands of every guest. Can you see what I’m seeing? When researching elderflower, I discovered it was the flavour of Prince Harry and Megan Markle’s wedding cake, so you can see it’s held to a pretty high standard.
Regardless of how we view elderflowers, it is in-fact an incredible flavour that is suitable for various occasions. I promise, you don’t need a top hat to use it in a dish.
Where can you find elderflower?
Although elderflower flavoured products are often much more expensive than their counterparts, they are actually relatively easy to forage. The flower blooms on the elder tree, these are often shrubs or small trees that can be found along country roadsides and throughout woodlands.
From late May onwards, you’ll see masses of white blossom looking flowers covering shrubbery, and that’s when you know that you’ve found an elder tree, so get picking. But, as with any foraging, you need to make sure you know what you’re doing first. The flowers and berries are the only edible part, so don’t start picking the leaves or trying to chew the bark. And REMEMBER, the berries and flowers are mildly toxic, you ensure you cook them before using them as an ingredient as it removes any of the toxic chemicals.
If you want to get elderflowers at their best, head out late May to mid June and try and find areas where there is minimal traffic so they haven’t been in contact with car fumes.
How to use elderflowers
The most popular way of using elderflowers is my creating a cordial. You can purchase cordial in most supermarkets, however it’s never quite the same as making your own. You simply need sugar, water, lemons and citric acid to make your cordial, it can be done in as little as 10 minutes and frozen to last the whole year.
Now I know what you’re thinking, isn’t cordial a little boring? I can only drink it. Well not quite. Once you’ve got your cordial mixture, you can use it to infuse several other dishes, like you would with vanilla essence. Some great ways to use the cordial include:
- Ice cream
- Gin and cocktails
- Lemon cake
- Berry tarts
And the list goes on. The point is, it’s all about experimentation. Elderflower has a floral and light taste that suits summer flavours such as strawberries, raspberries and even lemon. You could create both sweet and savoury dishes that offer a light and refreshing taste, perfect for BBQs and summer parties. Let your imagination run wild.