Elder (Sambucus nigra)
Elders are large, bushy shrubs or trees, and can grow up to six metres. They grow in both the city and countryside, favouring hedges, footpaths, motorway banks, railway lines, derelict land and domestic gardens.
Elderflower blooms are flat-headed sprays with the most wonderful flavour, that start to bloom in late spring. From the same tree, fully ripe elderberries are picked late in summer which are often used in cough syrup.
Elderflower starts to bloom in late spring and produce large creamy colour clumps of flat-headed sprays of hundreds of tiny, five-petalled, flowers with prominent stamens.
Elder grow mostly wild and flower abundantly in the South-Island during November. When in flower, the tiny white flowers have a delicate perfume, likened to lychees, honey and vanilla scents.
Pick fresh flowers from trees that don't grow on busy roads in which the petrol fumes might have spoiled the smell of the flowers. Flowers that are fully opened and haven’t turned brown are what foragers should aim for. Best time to pick them would be in the morning on a sunny day. Snip off the flower heads with as little stalk as possible. Pick bugs / insects with your fingers from the flowers but don't wash the flowers or you'll wash the natural yeasts off as well.
If I'm able to source elderflowers, I enjoy making elderflower cordial, but it can also be used as the basis for other drinks like a very beneficial tea. The flower heads can also be used to make fritters and it could be used to flavour cakes but doesn't last well so should be used as soon as possible.
Elderflowers have wonderful medicinal properties as well. It is said they are packed with vitamin C, antioxidants and flavonoids that help deactivate viruses and fight inflammation. They have been used for centuries to help with cold, flu and respiratory conditions as well as seasonal allergies. Elder flowers in the bath make the bath smell wonderful too!
Supplied by Canterbury HERB Society
Avice Hill Craft Centre, 395 Memorial Ave.Thursday 2 December 6pm
Christmas dinner, please bring a salad or dessert to share.
Visitors welcome, $5 per meeting.