The waysides are unfurling beautifully with red flowering currants, Salmonberry flowers and Elderberry shrubs. Elder is awakening from her slumber in fragrant, pollen-rich bundles of blossoms. One of our favorite spring botanicals! In our region around the sea to sky the most common is the Pacific Coast Red Elder (Sambucus racemosa callicarpa) which has red, non edible berries but delicious edible flowers in spring. Red Elderberries are not generally considered edible, as the seeds are toxic. The red portion of the fruit can and has been used itself but the amount of effort, pain to safely strain and risk is not worth it. Best to remove the stems as well. A toxin - hydrocyanic acid - is strongest in leaves, roots and bark as well as seeds. Before infusing remove as much as possible the flowers from the larger stalks. It also imparts a more floral aroma & taste to your cordial.
Western Blue Elderberries ( Sambucus cerulea ) can be used to make: Ebulon, an old Elderberry ale, wines or champagne full of nourishing attributes, tea for the flu, juices and cordials for sodas. These blue elderberries are the ones you can use safely and not the red ones.
Always forage respectfully as the birds love these too.
Before harvesting any wild plant assure you ID it positively, bring a gift in return for your medicines ( blossom, song, tobacco). Ask if you may harvest some but not all of her blossoms. Forage lightly and find a nice patch with multiple ripe blossoms. It is only wise and fair for the birds who love these berries too. If it is a Blue Elderberry, it would be foolish to take all the blossoms thus reducing the joy of berries later. Harvest from multiple shrubs and believe me there are lots so that should not be a problem. Pick perfectly ripe blossoms : not too early not too late. Pick ones without closed flower buds and not past their prime point either where they get that signature stronger off smell. The aroma can develop from muscat fruit & floral through musky to cat pee. You can avoid this if you harvest them on bright, sunny mornings.
TIP: Destemmed Elderflower is more work but so delicious. Not to worry if you have a bit more smaller stems but as a preference, we quickly strip the flowers by running our hands down the larger stem.
Wise elderflower graces our Cold and Flu for wellness as a diaphoretic which means it helps open pores & makes you sweat when fevers run high. Elderflower has antibacterial and antiviral properties and helps alleviate some allergies and boost the functioning of the immune system. Shop for teas here.
Elderflower constituents for the plant geek in you:
Elderflower contains flavonoids (up to 3%) composed mainly of flavonol glycosides (astragalin, hyperoside, isoquercitrin, and rutin up to 1.9%) and free aglycones (quercetin and kaempferol); minerals (89%), mainly potassium; phenolic compounds (approx. 3% chlorogenic acid); triterpenes (approx. 1%) including α- and β-amyrin; triterpene acids (approximately 0.85% ursolic and oleanolic acids); sterols (approx. 0.11%); volatile oils (0.030.3%) composed of approx. 66% free fatty acids (linoleic, linolenic, and palmitic acids) and approximately 7% alkanes; mucilage; pectin; plastocynin (protein); sugar; tannins (Bradley, 1992; Leung and Foster, 1996; List and Hörhammer, 1973-1979; Newall et al., 1996; Wichtl and Bisset, 1994).
Contraindications: none known
Cautions: Use only the elderflowers or the Blue elderberries varieties. Avoid all leaves, branches, roots, larger stems & seeds as they contain toxic components.
additional note: Wildcraft a little extra to dry as it makes an excellent cold and flu tisane to soothe congestion and boost immunity. Forage your medicines for the year ahead!
2 cups of organic Blonde cane sugar
2 cups of water
2 cups Elderflower blossoms destemmed
1.5 Meyer Lemons zest and juice
( for more citrus use 2 Meyer Lemons zest and juice)
On medium heat melt the sugar in water until golden syrup.
Add Meyer Lemon zest then press juice of lemons into syrup.
Add the 4 cups of fresh Elderflowers and infuse for 15 mins.
Strain syrup and pour into cleaned sanitized glass apothecary corked bottles.
Refrigerate and use according to taste 0.75 oz. to 1 oz. of syrup per serving of 325ml.
Garnish with a couple blossoms and zest of remaining lemon twist.
Make yourself a nice drink now you deserve it :
Salmonberry and Elderflower Soda
Elderflower Cordial Cocktail
1 ounce elderflower blonde cordial
1 ounce good gin
2 thick lemon slices - one to squeeze and one to garnish
6-8 ounces chilled soda water
Pack a 10 or 12 ounce glass with ice. Pour in the syrup and gin and squeeze one lemon slice over. Stir and top off with chilled soda water. Sip through a straw and enjoy!
Forager & Herbalist
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