Elderflower season

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The elderflower season is upon us! To me, the arrival of the elderflower heralds the beginning of the summer months; bringing with it memories of warm, relaxing days, drinking elderflower spritzers, eating sun ripened strawberries and watching tennis at Wimbledon…

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I just love the frothy whiteness of the blossom at this time of the year – it really is a joy to behold.  I have been picking several umbels each time I go for a walk and have been busy making elderflower cordial, cold water infusions and drying the flowers for tea. What a foraging treat!

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Elderflowers have some wonderful properties: they are both antibacterial and anti-inflammatory, so can help alleviate the symptoms of colds, flus and other viruses. They can also help with the symptomatic relief of allergies and boost the immune system. I always use the berries in the autumn to make tinctures and syrups for winter illnesses. Last year the berries were quite scarce, so I had to used dried berries. I am hoping that the abundance of flowers this season will lead to a bumper berry harvest in the autumn. Fingers crossed!  In the meantime I will enjoy the gift of the fragrant elderflower.

Ideally elderflowers should be picked in the morning on a bright sunny day. The flowers should be nice and white and open with no browning and should be picked from an area away from traffic as they, like all natural things, absorb pollution. Only take a few flowers from each tree so there are still plenty of berries for autumn foraging and to feed the birds in the autumn and winter.

I tend to suffer from hayfever around this time of year, so I thought I would dry some elderflowers to drink in tea when I experience hayfever symptoms as I heard it can help.  I laid them on a baking tray in an airing cupboard (so in a dry place out of direct sunlight) but you can also lay them on cardboard or anything like that. They should dry within a week. I removed the stalks and  am storing them in an airtight container for future use.

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I have also made a couple of bottles worth of elderflower syrup for us to enjoy. I tried making a sugar-free elderflower cordial last year, using dates, in two different ways, but we didn’t really like the results very much. One was very fermented and no doubt healthy, but it didn’t get drunk so no one gleaned the health benefits!! So this year I decided we would use sugar.

The cordial I made is a modification of two different recipes. One had far too much sugar in it for my liking and the other assumed you boil the water and sugar first and pour it over the elderflowers, which I hadn’t done.  It has worked out well I think. There is still plenty of sugar in it so it should keep well, but it’s probably not very immune boosting! 🙂

The main thing is that we are enjoying it – and drinking in all that lovely sunshine!

Anyway, this is how I made it:

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  • Cover the elderflowers and lemons with water and soak for 24 hours (or a little longer if you forget about it!)
  • Sieve the water solution into a measuring jug, discarding the flowers and stems. Pour it into a big pan, keeping track of the quantity of liquid you are using.
  • Add 250g sugar per litre of water – I added 500g to my 2 litres of water
  • Bring the sugar solution to the boil and simmer on a low heat for twenty minutes.
  • Pour into clean, sterilised glass bottles using a funnel.

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Enjoy!

Not long after making this cordial,  I went to a party and drank an elderflower infusion, which is essentially elderflowers covered in water and left to infuse overnight. The flowers and stems are removed in the morning. What remains is water infused with the delicate sweet flavour of elderflowers. It is a light, fragrant drink and sugar free!

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Being sugar free, it doesn’t keep long like the elderflower cordial, but I have been making infusions every couple of days as I really enjoy them and am sure they make an immune boosting treat! 🙂

Oh I do love foraging – nature provides us with everything we need;  if only we knew how to recognise and use the herbs and plants that grow so generously by the wayside like our ancestors would have done. I intend to find out more 🙂

On another note, whilst I am writing about summer beverages….

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We  have been enjoying fresh mint tea from the copious supply of mint in our garden and on hot days, we have been drinking iced water with cooling mint and lemon slices. So refreshing! Our mint attracts a particular moth that tends to lay its eggs on the mint. Last year the mint was doing so well but by July and August, it had been bitten to shreds and looked a sorry sight 😦 I fear the same is going to happen this year as there are dozens of mint moths on it at all times.

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I have collected some sprigs to dry indoors, to store for mint tea and flavourings

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but for now we are making sure we enjoy it in all kinds of salads and drinks before it is no more. I am not sure how to prevent the moths from laying eggs. If anyone has any ideas, I would love to hear from you!

I hope you too are enjoying all the delights of the season. 

 

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