Elder Flower Power

roses and elderflowers


It seems to be a bumper year for elderflowers this year. I don’t know if it’s because each shrub is particularly bountiful or if we have more bushes sprouting up around the farm but the creamy flowers are abundant.

Although best known for its flowers, all parts of the elder have a use. The bark, leaves and berries can be used for dyeing and apparently, if you rub the leaves onto your bare flesh then you’ll keep away the flies and midges. Certainly, the leaves don’t smell particularly nice so it could be true. In autumn, the berries can be used for syrups and wines, chutneys and pontack sauce.  So, don’t pick all the flowers or you won’t have any berries in the autumn.

If you have some elder growing near you, venture forth with a bowl and snip off a few of those saucer shaped blooms to turn into something delicious. Pick the flowers while they’re still creamy coloured and pollen laden and leave them if they’re turning brown. I snip off the heads with scissors and take them home to cut off the big stems, letting the small florets fall into a bowl.

making elderflower and rose cordial

The most obvious thing to do with elderflowers is to make Elderflower Cordial. As well as foraging for your elderflowers, you’ll have to go through the rigmarole of buying citric acid, which involves the pharmacist asking you exactly why you want to buy all those boxes of citric acid. I usually make Rose and Elderflower cordial as the roses are blooming at the same time as the elders and it makes a pretty pink drink. Not that I’m a pretty pink sort of person. But heigh ho, it’s summer so why not? You can find the recipe for Rose and Elderflower cordial here.

elderflower and rose cordial

The cordial can be diluted with still or sparkling water, added to fruit salad or pour it into a glass and top up with sparkling wine. Left forgotten in the bottle, the cordial will start to ferment and add its own sparkle. You can also use the cordial as a flavouring for jellies and sorbets and …

Elderflower and Rose Marshmallows

… marshmallows. I know marshmallows are achingly sweet and of little nutritional worth but home-made ones are a far cry from the plastic bag of marshmallows you buy in the supermarket. Just imagine a dish of these on the table at the end of a meal eaten outside in the sun.

If you want to give it a try, the recipe for these light, delicate puffs of sweetness is below.

You might also be interested in:

Elderflower Fizz

Elderflower Syrup

Elderflower Milk Jelly

Rose & Elderflower Cordial

Elderflower Creams

Rose and Elderflower Marshmallows

Rose and Elderflower Marshmallows

400g granulated sugar

14g powdered gelatine

90ml Rose & Elderflower Cordial

2 tablespoons icing sugar

2 tablespoons cornflour

Smidgeon vegetable oil

Put the powdered gelatine into your food mixer bowl and pour over 100ml of cold water. Give it a quick stir to amalgamate and set to one side to soften (it should look like gloopy wallpaper paste after a few minutes).

Add the granulated sugar to 175ml of cold water in a heavy based saucepan and bring to the boil, stirring to dissolve the sugar. Then, stop stirring, heat to 113C and take it off the heat.

Moving swiftly to your food mixer, whisk your gelatine mixture on a slow speed and gradually pour the hot sugar syrup into the bowl in a steady stream. When it’s all incorporated, add the rose & elderflower cordial, turn up the speed and whisk for ten to twenty minutes until you have a thick and shiny voluminous mixture that’s beginning to set.

While your mixer is whisking the mixture, lightly grease a baking tin (approx 28cm x 20cm) with vegetable oil, line with parchment paper and lightly oil again. Mix the icing sugar and cornflour together and sieve a teaspoonful over the base and sides of your baking tin.

Quickly pour and scrape the marshmallow mixture into your baking tin, spreading it evenly (a palette knife dipped in boiling water helps) and dust with a little more of the icing sugar and cornflour. If your marshmallow mixture doesn’t reach the top of the baking tin, cover with cling film. Otherwise, lay a piece of baking parchment over the top and be prepared for a slight crust where it dries out. Leave to set in a cool, dry place (not in the fridge) for about two hours.

When set, lay a piece of baking parchment on your work surface and dust with the sugar and cornflour mixture. Turn your baking tin upside down to tip out the marshmallow onto the dusted surface and then peel away the baking parchment. If you remembered to oil the parchment it will come away easily, if not it may be more difficult. Sieve over more sugar and cornflour.

The easiest way I find to divide the marshmallow is to cut a strip and roll it away from the main slab, coating each side with sugar and cornflour and then cut the strip into squares. Toss the squares in the bowl of sugar and cornflour so all the sides are well covered, pop them in an airtight container and keep in a cool, dry place. They’re best eaten within three weeks.

16 thoughts on “Elder Flower Power

  1. You’ve inspired me. I think we have some elder bushes on the other side of the field. Tomorrow, armed with scissors and a plastic bag, I shall go foraging. Here in Normandy, we may be a bit ahead of you so I may have missed my opportunity this year. But I will travel hopefully!

    I really like the idea of adding a few rose petals too. We have some really dark red blooms which have been a bit rain damaged so I’ll take the perfect petals and use those.

  2. Rose and elderflower marshmallows …. dreamy! There’s just something about the texture of homemade marshmallows that’s unequalled by anything commercial – that wafer thin crispness on the outside against the fluffiest inside without a trace of rubberiness. Your pic with rose petals tumbling over the delicate marshmallows looks like something out of The Arabian Nights – exotic, mysterious, ethereal and utterly moreish. Enjoy every one! (Like Maltesers it’s impossible just to eat one of those I bet!) E x

    1. You’re right – homemade marshmallows are very different, though some of the artisan ones are also delicious but rather expensive for what is essentially sugar and air.

  3. I’ve made elderflower cordial for many years but never added rose petals – such a nice idea! My grandmother used to make Elderflower Pop – delicious, but always a bit dodgy as that is a naturally fermented drink, and sometimes she got it wrong and the bottles would explode in the scullery! You only had to have one go off and all the others would too. That meant hours of cleaning sticky syrup and broken glass off the shelves. But when she got it right, and we drank it before it exploded, it was delicious. The Elder is, as you say, a most generous tree – and keeps on giving. So much you can do with it.

    1. We have the same problem with exploding Elderflower drinks. I’ve realised that the way to solve the problem is to use old fizzy drink plastic bottles and to check them regularly. As soon as the bottom starts to round, it’s time to drink. We had the same problem with ginger beer.

  4. I’ll try the tip with the leaves. Midges drive me mad in summer. Sounds like it might deter more than the midges though..

  5. We made elderberry wine many years ago, it was like port, one class and I was out for the night!
    (I also ruined the jumper I took off to carry them home in.)

  6. D > We’ve found that the results can be highly variable, especially with Elderflower ‘champagne’. Elderberry wine can vary from disgusting to jaw-droppingly wonderful. I rather like the adventure! Unfortunately, though Elder does grow here in the Outer Hebrides, it doesn’t flower reliably or ever in quantity, and as for berries … A pity … but there are compensations!

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