I’ve just returned from our local boulangerie and was elated to find myself on this misty morning surrounded by the distinct perfume of elderflower.
Elderberry bushes are in full bloom here in Provence and will most likely be starting in more Northern regions. This noble bush, full of folk history, is the flowering wonder that no one really notices bordering pretty much every countryside road and found in temperate as well as tropical climates all around the world. Elderberry not only tastes brilliant but also has loads of health benefits too. It can help when you have the flu and if rich in antioxidants.
I first discovered the enchanting flavour of Elderberry, or Sureau here in France, when I spent my first summer in England with Robin. We drove out into the countryside, picked the blooms from riversides, and returned home to start making elderflower cordial. It was a great success! I drank it all summer long.
It is possible to make Elderberry champagne, liquor, syrup, wine, cordial- the list goes on! I use my cordial as a refreshing drink; a dash of cordial in a glass topped up with fizzy water and a lemon- delicious! You can also put a sneaky drop in your champagne (or another bubbly of choice) to lend it a floral, rounded taste. You can add a splash in baking or create your own ice cream flavour- the possibilities are endless!
Robin and I have always used Tom Parker Bowles’ recipe. You can find his original article here. It has worked every time for me and it’s simple. There are no complicated measurements or waiting times. The best time to pick the flowers is when they’re still creamy white as when they first emerge. It’s also best to pick them on a sunny day.
Making this cordial every year has allowed me to associate lovely memories with this plant. Even if you only forage the flowers once, each May the sight of the flowers will remind you of their deliciousness.
Look out in the autumn for the dark, delicious berries. I painstakingly pull each little berry off the delicate stems and make pies with them. Sometimes, if I’m feeling lazy, I mix the berries with other berries from the hedgerow that are always fruiting at the same time. The elderberries themselves are little morsels that burst in the mouth with distinct flavour. It’s worth the effort!
Have you ever used elderflower to make something delicious?