In search of elderflowers

She may well have her hand in a searching posture.  She will be looking to avoid me.  I was not best pleased with her today!

The Captain and I are about to head off for a week on Wand’ring Bark and I am excited about the possibilities for foraging and wild food that this should present.  But clearly the excitement was all a bit much because at 3:30am I was still wide awake and pondering.  May begins to get really exciting as far as I’m concerned as there’s Elderflower, Hawthorn, Dog Rose,  as well as Dandelions and various bits of greenery that I’m still a bit scared of.  Well, ok, quite a lot scared.

However, because nettles are on my agenda for this coming week (shh, I’m not sure the Captain is keen on this plan!) I needed to invest in some gloves.  Without telling him why, I mentioned to the Captain that I needed gloves.  He handed me my M&S Autograph collection black leather ones.  I’m glad he thinks I have style but these are not quite what I was after.  Another friend suggested Marigolds.  At first I believed I was being given a suggestion for a new culinary experience of the flowery.  However, this was not the case and while it is true that Marigolds would be perfect for nettles, I would like something a little more robust as the gooseberries are about to fruit and they have lethal thorns that would make short work of Marigolds.  So off I trotted to the garden centre.

I got distracted by the herbs.  They had Horseradish, Sorrel and Comfrey!  It’s not often I’ve seen those.  Obviously I bought them.  I am no gardener and I do not know what to do with them.  I did wonder about putting them in a hanging basket but then I remembered that it is the root of Horseradish that is used and I thought that might not be such a good plan.  But then again, maybe it would make for easy access?  A hanging basket with a trap door even?  Perhaps not.  Anyway, they are now sitting on the wall by my herb garden.  I am hoping that they might transfer themselves.  If not, I expect the Captain will take pity on them.  He is good with plants.

On my way home, I decided to do a spot of last-minute land based foraging prior to our departure tomorrow.  It is now over a week since my last operation and as I feel so much better I decided a bit of crashing about hedgerows in the park was in order.  I wanted to make Pam Corbin’s Green Gooseberry Jam with Elderflower as our bushes are just at the right point.  I hadn’t yet seen any elderflower blooms but figured the park would have them if any were to be had.

I parked.  Took my foraging ‘kit’, which currently consists of: 1 canvas bag, large; 1 pair kitchen scissors.  I’m hoping to add a sturdy stick with hook/crook at the end partly to add to my image of local mad woman, partly to make it appear that I am emulating Little Bo Peep, but mainly to help me reach over-hanging branches.  I know, I know, a six-foot tall woman who can not reach high enough.  But you would be amazed how often it happens.  I digress.

I found the Elder trees.  Lots of them in fact.  Good distance from the roads.  Well established, mature specimens with heavily laden branches.  Heavily laden branches of dead flowers.

Yes, dead ones.  I have missed the boat.  The horse has bolted.  The bird flown.  And every other cliché imaginable.  Flippin’ erratic seasonal changes.  It will have been the fantastically hot April we had wot done it.  I am not best pleased.  I am only hoping these particular specimens were unusually advanced.  Precocious even.  I went back home and checked my books.  Pam Corbin says May; John Wright says late May to early July; and Richard Mabey says end of June.  Someone needs to get these trees to read and be quick about it.

Perhaps the trees that line the route Wand’ring Bark is taking to Stratford will be a little more backward.  Let us hope so.  I have a tea party planned for Tuesday of next week and I am wanting to make cake using elderflower cordial.  Someone please arrange some trees in bloom, ok?  Thank you.


8 thoughts on “In search of elderflowers

  1. no! Those aren’t elder trees. The elderflowers are only just coming out down here and we are further south than you so a bit warmer. You’re looking at the wrong trees!

  2. That looks like Mountain Ash aka Rowan, remember where they where because according to Wikipedia.
    The fruit can be made into a slightly bitter jelly traditionally eaten as an accompaniment to game, and into jams and other preserves, on their own, or with other fruits. The fruit can also be a substitute for coffee beans, and have many uses in alcoholic beverages: to flavour liqueurs and cordials, to produce country wine, and to flavour ale. In Austria a clear rowan schnapps is distilled

    Rowan fruit contains sorbic acid. The raw fruit also contain parasorbic acid (about 0.4%-0.7% in the European rowan), which causes indigestion and can lead to kidney damage, but heat treatment (cooking, heat-drying etc.) and, to a lesser extent, freezing, neutralises it, by changing it to the benign sorbic acid. Luckily, they are also usually too astringent to be palatable when raw. Collecting them after first frost (or putting in the freezer) cuts down on the bitter taste as well.

  3. Be careful where you plant that Comfrey! It’s great, but hugely rampant and very difficult to move once it’s established, as even tiny bits of root can take hold. Apparently, even cut leaves and stems have been known to take root on the compost heap, so I’ve been advised when cutting it, to leave the stems to wilt in the sun for a bit before you put them into the compost. I had a cutting of a small bit of root about a year ago, and now I have a patch about 2ft square!

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