One recent balmy evening, high above the beaches of St Clement, I went in search of the popular Elder tree to forage some elderflowers. Native to Jersey the Elder can be found island-wide in hedgerows,woods and cliffs. The views from here are stunning – the elder in flower, sitting pretty with the distinctive black mustard, fields running down to the sea and crystal clear views across to France – was ever a shrub so well situated?
I collect elderflowers from the hedgerows set away from roads or on pedestrian lanes – this way they are less likely to have pollution from vehicles lurking on the seemingly perfect blooms. I love this lane in particular, where the elder forms a majestic arch across the path.
The lowest level of flowers I tend to forage as flowers to use in cordials; the mid-height flowers I leave until they change, later in the year, to elderberries – where their added weight and gravity droop them down to picking height once more; and high-level flowers and berries get left for the insects and birds to forage and feast upon.
The best time to forage is early evening after a warm day – the flowers will be dry and open, full of pollen and heavenly scented – and if there are a few flowers still in bud in there too, all the better. Actually, I say heavenly, but elderflowers are a bit like a love / hate relationship with marmite – I love the fragrance but my hubby thought the puppy had wee’d!!!!! Thankfully the cordial tastes devine to both our palates.
* Add some grated zest from an orange and 3 lemons, some boiling water and leave to steep overnight. Next day strain the mixture, add the juice from the lemons and orange, add the sugar and heat until all mixed then pour into sterilised bottles. I use citric acid to help keep the shelf life a little longer – or you can also freeze in small batches and defrost as required.
Or add some lemonade and fruit and freeze into ice lollies; or add to gin and tonic for a fruity summer twist; or add to gooseberries for a light summer jam…..
* I use a River Cottage recipe as a basis for elderflower cordial. I’ve tried a few different ones but personally like this one! https://www.amazon.co.uk/Preserves-River-Cottage-Handbook-No-2/dp/0747595321
Note: Please forage responsibly – take small amounts from lots of different places to allow the plants, and the animals they sustain, to continue to flourish. Only use foraged plants if you know what you are picking as many plants are poisonous and can harm you.