elder flower cordial

elder flower heads

The Elder is a much maligned and hugely underrated tree. It generally self seeds where it is not wanted and is quite underwhelming compared to a lot of our indigenous trees that grace our gardens wasteland and countryside.

It looks very scruffy and not much of a tree most of the time. It is awkward in shape and grows without much form.

elderflower head next to a bunch of mint


there are two times in the year when it is splendid and one of my favourites.

elderflower heads

Now is one of those times when it is laden with it’s tiny milky white flowers that give off the most heady scent.

The window of opportunity for gathering these potent little flowers is limited and the heads are best picked in the early morning when the scent is at its sweetest; preferably not after rain but that might not be possible with the weather we are currently enjoying.

Pick over the heads for bugs and dead flowers but don’t wash them before you take the flower heads off.

There is a lovely blog post about elderflower cordial by the graphic foodie but this is a recipe taken from a free booklet that came with The Field magazine some time ago (who happen to do some cracking recipes if you like a bit of food for free):-

elderflower heads being iced off the stems


12 whole heads of flowers (with all the individual flower heads picked off the stems)

600g sugar (the colour of the sugar will affect the colour of your cordial – i.e. demerara makes it darker)

the zest and juice of 2 lemons

the zest and juice of 2 limes

1 litre of boiling water


put all the ingredients into a large heat proof bowl making sure you have picked over the flower heads to check for stalks etc

bring the water to the boil

pour the boiling water over the ingredients and stir until the sugar is dissolved into the water.

cover and leave for 24 hours

sieve and put into 30ml sterilised bottles.

The second time involves the berries later in the year when there are other harvest fruits to go along with them


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