Season: April – November (Flowers July, August, September)
Identification: Oppositely paired oval, finely pleated leaflets with tiny pairs of leaves between & trifoliate end leaflets on a red stem. Messy “clouds” of small cream inflorescences
Edibile Parts: Leaves, roots, buds, flowers and seeds. Important note: All parts contain coumarin which is toxic if consumed in high dosage or on a regular basis. Dry rapidly and thoroughly then store carefully to ensure no mould develops as this can cause high levels of coumarin. Normal moderate consumption does not pose a risk to health.
UK Distribution: Very common, especially in the north and west.
Habitat: Moist hedgerows, water meadows, roadsides, riverbanks, ditches and coastal spring sites
Harvesting Notes: Pick flowers on sunny mornings for best flavour. Flowers retain their scent on drying – dry in paper bags to retain their pollen and natural yeasts
- Infuses very well into sugar solution for a light floral “champagne” see here for a recipe or use an elderflower champagne recipe, only using double (or more) the number of flowers. The resulting fizz makes a great mixer or is delicious drunk chilled on a summer’s day.
- Infuses well into white spirits. Excellent for misting glasses. Makes a Zubrowka style vodka.
- Hot infuse leaves into water for mead, then add flowers once cooled and mixed with honey.
- Syrup: infuse into hot (but not quite boiling) water before adding equal parts sugar for simple syrup, or twice that of water volume for strong syrup.
- In cocktail bitters with other pungent hedgerow plants such as common hogweed, angelica, bog myrtle etc.
- In vermouths and amari
Sweetly aromatic on the nose (almond, hay, honey), especially from flowers. Bitter notes in the mouth (bitter almond, grass, germoline). Excellent background ingredient, highlighting and harmonising other flavours. Contains benzaldehyde (almond flavour) and, as a member of the rose family, small amounts of pinene, a compound also found in conifers (notably juniper) – more on this soon from chef Craig Grozier, a font of knowledge and inspiration in this area.
Works well with: Mead/honey, fruity drinks (try adding to sloe gin), bittersweet cocktails as a sweetener, aromatic, or bitter.