Thursday, 11 July 2013

Elderflower - Quintessential Summer Ingredient

Elderflower Bush

I have been out with my foraging gloves again and this time, I have been in search of elderflower.


I think it’s fair to say that there has been a renaissance for all things elderflower in the last couple of years.
  Once only thought of as a floral ingredient for drinks in the Victorian period or as a stalwart flavouring at the village fete’s WI cake stand, it has now been embraced with gusto as foragers and foodies lap up anything that contains this blossoming delight.

Close up of Elderflower

You’ll find it this time of year occupying the front row seat on most British hedgerows, bearing white flossy flowers.  It does often get mixed up with Hawthorn, do ensure you have a point of reference to help you identify it if you’re unsure of its appearance.

You don’t have venture far into the depths of the countryside to find it, you can often see it growing in public places such as canal paths and the like.  (As with all foraging, ensure that you only pick items that are on public land and not from private property!)  

The best time to pick them would be when it has been dry for a day or two as if picked when wet, you won’t get any of the pollen which is what actually gives the elderflower its flavour.

A common mistake is that it’s synonymous to Britain when actually it also grows wild in Italy and even North America.  In fact, the alcoholic beverage Sambuca is made from it and takes its name from elderflower’s official Latin name ‘sambucus nigra’.  Who’d have thought that such a pretty little flower could be the source of such an intoxicating liquor!

If you search the internet, you’ll find numerous recipes for elderflower – namely for cordials and lemonades.  However, I've adapted a lovely recipe for elderflower syrup which provides much versatility once made – drizzle it over ice cream, include it in an Eton Mess dessert or a favourite of mine is to stir it into a bowl of Greek yoghurt!  The choices are endless.  See recipe below.

Now that we’re experiencing this mini heatwave here in the UK, get your gear together and go foraging and give your food a taste of British summer straight from the hedgerow!


Sugar & Water Boiling for the Syrup

Elderflower Heads prior to being placed in the syrup

The syrup solidified 

Elderflower Syrup

300g Caster Sugar
500ml Boiled Water
Zest from one Lemon
1 Squeeze of Lemon Juice 
10 Elderflower Heads


  • Boil water in a large saucepan.
  • Add the caster sugar and stir frequently for 5-10 minutes until it has become fully absorbed.
  • In the meantime, prepare the elderflower heads.
  • Cut off their excess branches and brush/wash gently each head to remove any bugs and/or debris.
  • Add the lemon juice and stir.
  • Add the elderflower heads (heads down) and stir.
  • Turn the heat off.
  • Allow the syrup to cool down which will also enable the elderflower flavour to penetrate the syrup.
  • After a couple of hours (more if time allows), remove the elderflower heads and discard.
  • Pour the syrup into a plastic storage box and either keep refrigerated or store in the freezer for prolonged use.
  • Use as desired.
  • NB: The solidified syrup will melt once heated again to a more fluid form.


  1. Mmm... I love elderflower! Thank you for an informative post!

  2. Thank you Charlene! It's such a great item and it's free!! Hope you have a successful foraging trip for it and enjoy making the syrup or perhaps something else elderflower based! Anna x