It’s the exactly the right time of year to pick Elderflowers. They are covering the bushes and hedgerows of lanes and paths all around me right now, so what better time to write about the uses and benefits of Elderflower.
In this post I’ve included tips on elderflower foraging, uses and making elderflower cordial. If you are here just for the elderflower cordial recipe then just scroll to the bottom to find the recipe, but it’s other medicinal uses are worth noting too as it’s far more than just a nice summer beverage.
Elder is actually a shrub, but can grow tall if left unchecked so can often look like a bush or a tree, and will grow almost anywhere. Elder has always been valued for its medicinal properties. Both it’s flowers and berries can be used to make a delicious tonic, and are a good source of vitamin C.
Foraging for Elderflower
Elder and it’s strongly scented, tiny cream-white flowers can be found most commonly in hedgerows, field boundaries, woodlands and paths.
•Elderflowers grow from May onwards, but are best picked at the beginning of June in either early morning or early evening, on a warm dry day when the flowers are fully in bloom and heavy with pollen.
•When picking the flowers go for those above knee height just to be sure to avoid any ‘dog pee’ kinds of contamination.
•Be sure to leave some flowers behind to ensure that come the end of August there are plenty of berries to ripen that you can use too.
•Old flowers can cause the cordial to taste bitter and unpleasant so don’t go for the flowers that are brown or shrivelled.
•Avoid picking flowers that are close to busy roads as they can take on the fumes from cars etc.
Once you pick your Elderflowers you have two options. Either you can dry the flowers to use for infusions and medicinal purposes, or you can make a cordial.
Elderflower infusion method
If you have harvested Elderflowers for medicinal uses then you need to make an oil infusion. A very simple process, as follows:
1.To make an infusion you first need to dry the flowers. Once the flowers are dry fill a jar with the full plants heads, and cover with oil.
2.Run a knife around the inside of the jar to dispel air bubbles, then seal the jar and leave in a warm place for 2 weeks, or until the oil has taken on the colour of the flowers.
3.Strain and then bottle the oil. Ensure the oil is stored in tinted glass bottles to make sure you get the most of its benefits.
N.b. If you don’t want to wait the 2 weeks for your infusion you can place the flowers and oil in a pan and cook over a low heat for about 20 minutes. Then complete the straining and bottling process as above.
Infused oils will last from 6 months to a year.
Medicinal uses for Elderflowers
Elderflower has antiseptic, antiviral, antibacterial, and anti-inflammatory properties. As well as booting the immune system.
You can use a cold infusion of elderflower as a soothing eyewash for irritated, infected or itching eyes. It can also treat conjunctivitis and hay fever / allergy symptoms.
Add the infusion to a bath or rub onto the skin for a moisturising oil that can treat symptoms of psoriasis, eczema, and even soothe chickenpox and shingles. As well as cystitis.
Topically, elderflower could help to reduce pain and swelling in the joints, and arthritis symptoms.
Elderflowers other medicinal uses include helping to clear catarrh, ease sore throats, clear sinuses and sinusitis symptoms, and relieve constipation. It can also alleviate the symptoms of colds, flu, and viral infection.
These are best treated by drinking the elderflower syrup diluted in water.
The syrup or elderflower cordial recipe is as follows:
Elderflower cordial recipe
As well as the medicinal benefits already mentioned elderflower made into a cordial makes a lovely refreshing drink during the summer, or make with hot water as warming tea-like drink.
To make elderflower cordial you will need:
1 litre of water
8 table spoons of set honey (or 600grams of sugar if you prefer)
20-25 elderflower heads
1.To make the cordial add the water and honey/sugar to a pan and slowly bring to the boil until all of the honey/sugar has melted.
2.Wash the elderflowers to remove any bugs and dirt.
3.Once melted take the pan off the heat and add the elderflowers upside down, making sure the flowers are completely submerged.
4.Slice all but one of the lemons and add these to the pan. Cut the last lemon in half and squeeze the juice of the lemon into the pan.
5.Pop the lid back on to the pan and leave to infuse for 24hours.
6.After the 24 hours you are ready to strain the cordial. Place a sieve over a large bowl and cover the sieve with a muslin cloth. (If you don’t have any muslin a good quality tea towel will do)
7.Pour the cordial through the muslin and then store in sterilised bottles or jars until ready to dilute.
Finally. Here are a few of my suggestions for using your cordial other than just adding to water to drink
-mix with lemonade for a fizzy drink, or freeze in mold’s to make refreshing lollies for summer
-add to water and freeze as ice cubes to add to drinks in the summer or an additional flavour to your wine and gin
-add to frosting when baking for a refreshing cake topping
-as mentioned before, you can also have elderflower cordial hot and a warming remedy for cold and flu
Enjoy making and relaxing with your own batch of elderflower, and stay tuned for how to use elderberries too, once autumn arrives.