We were delighted to spot the first elder flowers of the season on Islay last week.
Its been a cool spring and they did kind of look like they were trying to fold themselves back into buds and wait for warmer times…but we cracked out a bottle of elderflower champagne (made with last year’s dried elderflowers) and toasted them anyway. Its a big point in the forager’s year, a measuring point in the moveable calendar of special moments.
Elderflowers are one of the #22 botanicals in The Botanist Gin, adding complex floral notes and some sweetness. Elder trees are intricately entwined with human history, and are never far from civiliation. We wrote about their folklore connections here.
Identification: Deciduous large shrub or small tree with grey/brown gnarled corky bark, often covered with green moss/algae. Leaves in groups of 5-7 pointed, toothed ovals. Small creamy white flowers arranged in flat umbels. Bunches of small berries start green, ripening to a deep purple.
Edibile Parts: Flowers buds, flowers, berries
UK Distribution: Everywhere
Season: Flowers May – August, Berries July – November
Habitat: Fertile ground on woods, wood edges, hedgerows, waste ground. Often close to human habitation.
Drinks Uses: Many. To name a few: Elderflower champagne/wine/syrup/beer/mead/vinegar. Elderberry shrub/wine/syrup/vodka/whisky