It's that time of year again; the streets are filled with the sweet smell of elderflower as England's roadsides burst into life with that incredible flavour just waiting to be harnessed. I had been totally unaware of this foraging opportunity until it was pointed out to me whilst walking through Chiswick a few years ago. Having only associated elderflower with the sweet cordial available in the supermarkets, I hadn’t realised that we are surrounded by elderflower trees in the UK. Last year I tried, unsuccessfully, to make home-made cordial (failure to sterilise the bottles resulted in mould!) so this year I have made it my mission to explore all possible elderflower-flavoured products.
Elderflower has had a bit of a turbulent past in Britain; as it was once thought to be associated with witches, country folk were afraid to cut and burn its branches for fear of being punished by the ‘elder mother’, the guardian of the tree. Having said this, it has also been said to have medicinal properties as far back as Hippocrates who recommended elderflower for purging the body. Elderflower tea is recommended in local folklore for colds and flu and also for the prevention of hay fever.