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Edible Wild Flowers: Elderflowers

Foraging Elderflower Near Caerphilly Castle in Wales

Foraging Elderflower Near Caerphilly Castle in Wales

Some things just whisk me straight back to my chidhood. The smell of stewing rhubarb or apples. Apple tart with fork prongs holding the pastry together and keeping those argy-bargy apples in. Tiny potatoes covered in soil. Fields of cows. Bushes full of blackberries. The smell of the sea. The sound of the waves as I waited for the school bus every morning. Bright red rose hips that we would try to make itching powder from. The smell of Irish stew on the hob. Elderflowers.

I grew up in a rural area, surrounded by farms and the sea. I had no idea how good I had it. Within a 5 minute walk of my house were rocky and sandy beaches and a pier that we would fish crab on. Mackerel would jump out of the water come August and we would run down to the rocky beach with our homemade fishing rods (bamboo for a rod), and homemade weights that we had spent the day making by melting lead and setting into shapes in holes in buckets of sand (eeeek – yes!). We would try to feed the cats spratts (they refused). We would pick apples in nearby orchards, pick gooseberries in the fruit graden of an abandoned nearby house that I always fantastised about owning, but sadly was levelled for a golf course (I am still cross about that!). We would gather bluebells in Spring in nearby woods.

Boy, did we have it good?!

Elderflower had a special appeal for me, as a very girly girl. There were elm trees everywhere. I would pick lots and try and make perfumes and drinks. I spent all day making some elderflower cordial once and was absolutely devestated to discover that the diluted orange bottle I had made it in, still reeked of orange, and so my cordial was destroyed.

I still love elderflower. It’s fragrant (although use it straight away, as they lose their freshness the flavour becomes repellant), pretty, and delicious. I fritter it, make elderflower cordial, use the cordial with gooseberries in a fool, make elderflower bellinis and make some mildly alcoholic elderflower sparkler wine.

I picked lots on a recent brief trip to Wales. Of course it’s all over London too (although it’s the end of the season so some will already be turned to berries), but there was so much in Wales and I had time. A rarity in my London existence these days, sadly.

I will be back with some recipes soon. For now, go and forage!

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I like food. I like to make food. Eat food. Photograph food. Write about food. Mainly in London but when I am lucky or organised further afield.

9 Comments

  1. A rallying cry to forage if I ever read one! Lovely post Niamh, find this time of year is so nostalgia-laden, have fond memories of picking berries, going fishing and generally running around in the wild at my grandparents’ farm on the west coast of Norway. We had it good too and I wish I hadn’t taken it for granted back then, would love to spend summers doing all of that now!

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    • How true, the post reminds me so much of my youth. Real wave of nostalgia hitting me and a longing to be home, and I’m only 35 miles down the road. Lol

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  2. Lovely post Niamh, sounds like you had a fantastic childhood, very jealous although even growing up in East London and later Essex I can’t complain, I lived next to a forest – and spent a hell of a lot of time in there building campfires, climbing trees, playing in rivers, making camps etc….I had a great time and have nothing but great memories of being a kid.

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  3. lovely post, Niamh, what a beautiful tribute to your childhood. like Sig, the summer reminds me of my grandparents, too, there is not a single summer i didnt spend with them in Lahore, till they passed away. all i can think about are the mangoes- eating them at table with them. would love to see your recipes, soon. x shayma

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  4. Great post, and beautiful photograph. The elderflower blossoms disappear fairly quickly round here as Belvoir Cordials pay by the kilo for them to make their cordial. I’ve never made fritters although hear they are quite delicious. Maybe next year!

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  5. This is a gorgeous post Niamh, and you were dead lucky growing up somewhere so wild and beautiful…can’t wait for the recipes!

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  6. My garden has an abundance of elderflowers this year and so far free of the horrid black aphids that attacked them last year. I have already made some elderflower champagne this weekend but would love to know if anyone has any tips for preserving the flowers – does freezing or drying work?

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  7. Oh the nostalgia, something about the smell of elderflowers sends me right back to my childhood too. I think it was the high treat of elderflower champagne when I wasn’t allowed to drink ordinary fizz. Think I’ve missed the boat this year, but will try and make elderberry rob instead of cordial.

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  8. elderflower bellinis – what a brilliant idea, although a fan of elderflower wine, I hadn’t thought of that!! i’ll let you know if mine are any good! x

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