Wednesday, 4 June 2014

Forraging for Elderflowers & Making Cordial and Fritters

I just love this time of year, I like going out for a nice walk and seeing what bounties I can forrage! Since we moved to this house back in June last year, I have been scouring the hedgerows during each of the seasons and making a note of the goodies that will be on offer at different times. I love to pick and make my own wherever I can for a couple of reasons. One I take great pleasure from a walk in nature and the process of making it, I think it is a rather wholesome experience and almost meditative really. Secondly you know exactly what has gone into the making of it, no nasties! and lastly it is actually cheaper, the cost of the ingredients for the quantity made is far cheaper than what you would buy in the supermaket so making your own is win win all round really.

Where we live there is an abundance of Elderflower everywhere. Elderflowers are usually out from late May to July and are just simply delicious as fritters and made into cordial. Well those are the two things that I usually make from them but there are plenty of things you can do. Mr B is not massively keen on elderflowers but I love them and at some point I would like to try my hand at champagne and then look into other recipes like jelly etc.

I thought you might like to come along with us as we forrage for the flowers to help you identify then if you would like to have a go and then back to the kitchen to make cordial and fritters. Keep reading if you would like the recipe to make at home yourself.

Elderflowers are just so pretty with their frizzy little flowers and they look so lovely paired with the lemons don't you think. I am so glad I stopped this little ladybird before she went into the pot poor thing and was put out to graze in the garden!

Elderflower Cordial Recipe

To make approximately 3 litres

40 heads of elderflower
3.5 Kg sugar
2.5 litres water
4 lemons
Bottles (pre-sterilised) - Glass looks pretty but you can also use plastic and if you use plastic you can also freeze the cordial for use later in the year, just make sure to leave a gap at the top for the cordial to expand in the freezing process.

1. Shake the elderflower heads to remove any bugs and beasties and also to shake off dead flowers and pollen
2. Trim as much of the green stalks off as possible as these can make it taste more bitter
3. Put the flowers into a large bowl. Slice up the lemon and add this to the bowl with the flowers. If you would like the cordial to be less torte, use fewer lemons!
4. Pour the water into a large saucepan, add the sugar and slowly heat.
5. Once the sugar has dissolved, pour this into the bowl over the lemons and the flowers and savour that wonderful smell!
6. Cover with a clean cloth and leave to infuse for 24-48 hours stirring occasionally.
7. Pour into clean sterilised bottles using a sieve or muslin cloth and a funnel and label.

Can be stored for up to one month or it can be frozen in batches and defrosted to use when required.

My tips and how to identify the plant

Elderflowers can be harvested approximately End of May –Early July.

Once you know what elderflower looks like, you always know. That may sound silly but now every where I go I am like, ooooh there’s one, ooooh fancy it growing there. It becomes an addiction.

The main plant that you could confuse elder with is the Guelder Rose. The guelder rose however is a much smaller shrub. The branches of Elder are very brittle and the bark is slightly corky looking. You can also tell the elderflower apart from the guelder rose by the leaves. Elder  leaves have finely serrated edges on a stem with two or three pairs and then a single leaf at the end. The Elder flowers are individually very small - the whole flower head being of a larger spread than the Guelder Rose. The latter has much larger individual white flowers open around the outside of the flower head, and smaller flowers very similar to the Elders in the centre of the flower head. Leaves are totally different to the Elder, being broader - a bit like a Field Maple shape.

Elderflowers smell of what can only be described as being “Tom cat ish” if they smell too much like tom cat then they have gone over and shouldn’t be used. Anything you make with gone over elderflowers will smell equally noxious!

The other plant that you could perhaps mistake them for is the white cowslip.

I would recommend that you harvest from as high as possible to avoid the concern that a doggy may have already paid a visit and to ensure that you are not harvesting cowslip. Also as ever avoid harvesting from a bush that is potentially polluted, from by the side of a road for example.

Remember to only take what you need and to spread it out over several bushes. Leave plenty of flowers to enable the growth of elderberries.

And always ensure you have the land owners permission.



  1. I cannot wait to make this. I may follow up with a video response stylee? ! Yum!!

    1. You should that would be so cool, you should try it with the oranges in like that lady had done on the tube. I used to harvest my flowers from the back of Ernulf there were loads there :D