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!