Keep your eyes peeled for some flowering elder trees when you’re out and about, for in the next couple of weeks we shall be publishing a couple of fun things to try with foraged elderflower. Also, depending on the autumnal berry crop, later in the year we shall publish a tasty elderberry syrup recipe to help keep you and your family healthy over the winter months.
The elder tree (Sambucus nigra) is a native tree species to Britain which commonly grows in hedges, scrub and woodland. You will find it in many open spaces, along footpaths and possibly even growing wild in your garden. In fact many regard it as a weed because it can grow so profusely!
The flowers, which are starting to burgeon right now, have culinary uses, can make a nice cordial or something a little more alcoholic to enjoy come those lazy hazy days of summer. The autumn berries have potent anti viral properties which are so effective some countries have even stocked elderberry syrup rather than conventional medicines to tackle flu epidemics!
First things first, get your eyes on some elder!
The first clue to look out for at this time of year are the large compound white flowers (seemingly large flower heads but actually comprising lots of individual florets).
Immature and emerging blooms look like balls on stalks.
The bark of the elder tree has a course, almost cork like appearance.
The leaves are in opposite pairs with finely serrated edges
For absolute beginners, remember elder is a tree and although it can grow in a ‘shrubby’ appearance you should always be able to see these key identification points. Don’t be drawn to herbaceous plants with white compound flowers as there can be some nasties among them.
Also, be aware the uncooked berries and leaves of elder are toxic so this tree will need treating with respect. Details on safe usage will accompany the recipe posts which are coming very soon.
In the meantime, make a safe identification, find some potential elderflower harvesting opportunities and keep back a few bottles (with lids) from the recycling.