To buy, sell and swap plants and use our full service, please log in or sign up - it's completely free.

Elderflowers - Food and Fable

  • Elderflowers - Food and Fable
  • Elderflowers - Food and Fable

I originate from Lincolnshire - and proud to be a 'Yellowbelly' - and have lived in a few old cottages during my time in my home county. There was an elder bush by the gate at each one. I remarked on this fact one day when my mother's gardener had come to help me dig one up. It was particularly vigorous and had reduced access through the front gate to danger level, such that I had had complaints from the postman about getting very wet! It does rain quite a bit in the east, contrary to statistics about 'west in wetter'! The gardener, a wonderful tiny man with proper shiny rosy apple cheeks and twinkly eyes, was horrified when he discovered what he was supposed to be removing.

"Nah thin Missus, no, you musn't be doin' that!" I was taken aback somewhat.
"Why not?"
"It be bad luck! Nowt to stop they witches!"
"They be planted at gayats (gates) to warn off the evil......I will move the gayat"
And he did.....made a new front path , what he called a 'pad'. And he would not take any payment.
"No Missus, I have just saved thee!"

So don't be moving 'they elders' at your gates will you? Any excuse for a new gate...... Just to avoid any witches I planted a posh looking Purple Sambuca nigra with soft pink flowers at my current front gate! I am pretty certain it is a variety called Black Lace.

Just time to remind you, before the flowers set to berries and your thoughts turn to jam and wine, this is the time to make elderflower syrup or cordial and elderflower champagne. The former is such an amazing taste, light, refreshing, and magical. I would even go as far as to say glamourous........add a dash to fizz ( alcolholic or otherwise!). It is a wonderful accompaniment to a stroll round the garden on your own when you are feeling self righteous at the amount of effort you have put in , or when showing it off to friends! With regard to elderflower champagne, just a word of warning - be sure you have proper bottles. I speak from a rather explosive experience! But well worth the risk. There are lots of recipes on line for both syrup and champagne, but below is the one I use for the syrup. I actually freeze some of mine in ice cube trays for instant chilled luxury. It is great added to cooked gooseberries and in and on homemade ice creams.

12 elderflower heads, gathered early when dry and fully open. Check for bugs and do not wash
600ml water
900gms sugar
2 lemons, coarsely zested and then sliced

Put elderflowers in bowl with prepared lemons. Dissolve sugar in the water to make syrup and bring to the boil.
Pour over flowers etc and leave overnight. (Do not be alarmed if the flowers go brown)
Strain through muslin ( or a jelly bag).
Sterilise bottles by heating in oven, allow to cool and fill the bottles. Or freeze in small quantities.
Store in cool dark place.

Cheers!.....maybe leave a glass out for the witches!

Comments (10)

  1. Grower


    What a delightful post Susie! Interesting story with great tips too - I love my sambucus nigra Black Lace and though it's not by a gate I hope it stops the witches flying over the fence!
    I look forward to more of your tales.

  2. Grower

    Susie Edwards

    Thanks Linda. I have to say I haven't had any trouble with any so it must work!

  3. Grower

    Jeremy Wright

    Lovely story Susie ... and fascinating! I researched Elders online and found a variety of beliefs based on witches and hidden powers:

    Some thought the tree was possessed by a witch so were reluctant to cut it down in case 'they suffer repercussions'! If it had to be cut down then they'd kneel before it and say:

    “Lady Ellhorn, give me of thy wood, and I will give thee of mine when I become a tree” ... thus giving the witch both time to escape and significant compensation!

    Others thought that it protected against thunderbolts and plagues. Or that if you sat under the tree on Mid Summer's Day and blew a wooden flute you would summon the faeries. (My goodness, did you see what day you wrote this post!)

    It was also planted next to bakeries to stop the devil being folded into the dough when kneaded.

    In any event it's certainly a magical tree (like you I particularly like the Black Lace variety ...and saw a whole bank of them in full bloom at the Thrive garden at Trunkwell yesterday - spectacular!).

    ... and it makes a magical drink. Apparently the flowers are more potent just after Mid Summer, so gather them now!

  4. Grower

    Susie Edwards

    I love all the extra information. Being somewhat ancient the internet does not easily come into my head regarding further investigation! But I am getting there. perhaps an elderflower tipple will stimulate the old grey cells!

  5. Grower

    Jim Edwards

    We be Gorman that were a fairy tale

  6. Grower

    Susie Edwards

    Jim, that is some obvious cryptic clue to the well versed, well read, well movied.......but I am soooo not....... Please explain!

  7. Grower

    Jim Edwards

    Sorry don,t know how that spelling appeared. It should have read "ee be gorrah" that were a fairy tale.
    A little Lincs lingo and the fairies from Jeremy,s post.
    Supposed to have been an amusing remark to say how much we enjoyed the article.
    Check my grower page and my garden, you will see a lovely example planted outside our front door. I have grown quite a lot from cuttings of this plant.
    Not sure wether the magic,s working though as my nursery sign was taken from our drive and I wondered if it was one of those witches that live down the lane.

  8. Grower

    Jim Edwards

    Caught one, was this the culprit or just some prankster on village scarecrow weekend?

    • Elderflowers - Food and Fable
    • Elderflowers - Food and Fable
  9. Grower

    Susie Edwards

    Love it!

  10. Grower

    Jeremy Wright

    I think it was that wicked Elderflower wine!

Production v5.9.2 (d960957)