The flowers and berries are the only edible part of the plant. They are mildly toxic and have an unpleasant taste when raw. Cooking destroys the toxic chemicals.
The fragrant flowers are most famous for making elderflower champagne and cordial – perfect summer drinks. Cordial can also be used in baking! There are lots of recipes that you can adapt to your taste. Here’s a basic one, but don’t worry about being too precise with quantities.
5 litres water
6 heads of elderflower
2 tablespoons of vinegar (cider or white wine)
You’ll also need a clean bucket for fermenting and bottles.
Pick the elderflowers when it’s sunny and they’re young (before they turn brown)
Put the sugar in the bucket and pour on about 2 litres (a kettle) of boiling water to dissolve it. Add the remaining 3 litres of cold water.
Add the sliced lemons and the vinegar.
Give the flower heads a shake to remove the insect life, but do not wash them.
Remove the large green stalks and put the flowers in the water – it’s their natural yeasts that will make it fizzy.
Cover with a clean cloth and leave for 48 hours.
Strain the liquid through a sieve or muslin into the bottles. Screw on the caps and leave at room temperature for about 2 weeks.
Refrigerate and enjoy.
The drink is very mildly alcoholic.
Smell your elderflowers before picking them as some can have a distinct note of cat pee!