Although they were a bit late this year the elderflower are in full force at the moment. Its a treat to have such a versatile wild flower in abundance and on pretty much every hedgerow in the country. Once you spot one you just start seeing them everywhere.
As with all wild foraging though, we’ve got to respect mother nature and in particular the bees, and not go overboard. The flowers are more important to them than they are to us.
A little goes a long way, however, and you can make up a pretty substantial batch of cordial with only about 20 heads of flowers. Its so simple. All you need is sugar syrup (roughly 3 to 1 sugar and water melted down. add in some ginger to the syrup if you want), pour it over the flower heads, add some lemon juice and zest – the citric acid will help to preserve the cordial – and leave it in the fridge for 24 hours. Then strain off the liquid and bottle.
And theres loads of other things you can do with elderflower – jelly, tempura, they make a beautiful garnish, and of course elderflower champagne….ours is fermenting nicely….only another month or so to go.
We also experimented with some gorse cordial a few weeks ago – trying to capture that distinctive coconut scent didn’t quite materialize but there were definite subtle undertones and a lovely floral finish, not too dissimilar to the elderflower. I think we may have to approach a perfumer rather than a cook to figure out how to capture scent in taste.
cover illustration by Fink