Alright blossom?

Does anyone else think this has been a fantastic year for flowers? First it was the primroses, then the bluebells, which were spectacular and now it is the turn of the elderflower. Once regarded as sacred, the elder tree produces a mass of blooms and was enjoying a huge revival in popularity as a flavour even before Megan and Harry’s choice of wedding cake - lemon and elderflower. Maybe it’s because it takes a sparkling wine or water as a perfect partner for a special occasion drink and is like summer in a glass.

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The name comes from the Anglo-Saxon for fire ‘aeld’ because it has hollow stems and lights well although the superstitious would not burn it since it was so revered, protected by the Elder Mother. You can blow through the stems to fan a fire and as with many of the most popular foraged plants, it has plenty of medicinal properties claimed on its behalf, such as curing colds and easing joint pain. Foraging was once a part of the daily lives of countryfolk whereas the only foraging most of us do now tends to be in the aisles of supermarkets. The good news is, it’s coming back and at Granny Gothards we are all for that!


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One of the unintended consequences of foraging is it makes you look longer and harder at what’s on your doorstep. To tell the difference between a leaf that will spice up your salad or one that will give you a nasty reaction, you need to examine it for distinguishing features. You can’t help but admire nature’s artistry as the toxic mimics the medicinal. Nor can you miss the sound of a robin singing its heart out as you search for the raw, natural ingredients of a culinary treat. Considered the jewel in the crown for a forager, elderflower can be used in a host of ways - in teas, tonics, cordials, fritters, sweets and jellies. The knack is to wait for a fine morning to harvest the luxurious, creamy-white blossoms when the sun is on them.

We have been making elderflower ice cream and sorbet for many years and these are refreshing accompaniments to fruit tarts such as rhubarb or gooseberry. Or you could take a leaf out of the Sussex’s cookbook and serve a celebration lemon and elderflower gateau with one of our boozy sorbets – Champagne & Pink Champagne perhaps?


Our tips for collecting elderflowers are to make sure you have identified the right plant, wait for a sunny morning and gather the blossoms without too much green stalk, taking care not to over crop one spot.

For four litres of cordial you will need around 1.5. litres of water; 20 rinsed flower heads (which have masses of tiny individual flowers); two and a half kilograms of sugar, two lemons; 85 grams of citric acid (available from a chemist) and clean, glass bottles. In a large saucepan, gently heat the sugar in the water till dissolved, stirring occasionally. Take the zest from the lemons with a potato peeler and then slice them. Bring the pan of syrup to the boil, then remove from the heat. Add the flowers, lemons, zest and citric acid. Stir well. Cover the pan and leave to infuse for 24 hrs. Line a colander with a clean tea towel and sit it over a large bowl. Ladle in the syrup and let it drip slowly through the towel. Pour into the bottles and keep in the fridge.

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Amanda stansfield