By: Liz Baessler
Many gardeners and cooks know about elderberries, the small dark fruits that are especially popular in European cuisine. Keep reading to learn more about common elderflower uses and what to do with elderflowers.
Before cooking with or ingesting elderflowers, it’s important to understand a couple things. While most species of elderberries are edible when cooked, the other parts of the plant, including leaves, stems, and roots, are toxic to humans.
Sambucus nigra, or black elder, is the most commonly used plant for elderflower harvest. Even though these elderflowers are frequently ingested, they are technically high in certain alkaloids and cyanidin glycosides that, if consumed in excess, can lead to problems such as nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea.
If you are unsure about the type of elderflower plant you are harvesting from, it’s best to buy flowers from a reputable source to avoid problems.
Wondering what to do with elderflowers? There are several uses for elderflowers, from desserts to beverages to teas. Elderflowers have an unmistakable scent and flavor that is similar to a sweet white wine and perfectly reminiscent of summer.
Elderflower cordial is a particularly delicious concoction that can be made by boiling the flowers for half an hour, straining out the particulates, and adding an equal volume of sugar to the remaining water. The resulting cordial can be added to beverages or mixed into desserts, where it imparts an amazing fragrance. It can also be frozen and kept to brighten up dark winter nights.
Similarly, you can dry the flowers and save them to use in cooking. Try throwing a handful of flowers in lightly flavored cake batter or even pancake mix.
Elderflower uses aren’t just restricted to the culinary. While the jury is officially out on elderflowers’ medicinal properties, they have been used for centuries on several continents as an anti-inflammatory, as a skincare product, and as a pain reliever.
Let a small amount of flowers steep in boiling water for a few minutes to create a simple, soothing tea that, among other things, has been claimed to relieve symptoms of the common cold. Or just drink it to enjoy elderflower’s intoxicating scent.
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The non-traditional wedding cake flavor also springs up in lobster salad and mango margaritas.
The royal wedding of Prince Harry to Meghan Markle will certainly be delectable for many reasons, but chief among them will be the menu for the reception. While few details were leaked before the big day, one of the big announcements was that the wedding cake would be made by Claire Ptak, owner of London's Violet Cakes. The pastry itself will be "a lemon elderflower cake that will incorporate the bright flavours of spring" and topped with buttercream and flowers, according to Kensington Palace.
For the unfamiliar, elderflowers are the blossoms of the elderberry. The flowers have a musky floral and honey flavor with hints of other tree fruits. While not the most common ingredient in American cuisine, elderflower does sprout up in quite a few recipes. Whether you're using elderflowers buds, elderflower syrup, or an elderflower-flavored liqueur like St. Germain, here are nine recipes you can make at home to get the essence of elderflower in your kitchen.
Elder grows in most of the world. It can be foraged or cultivated.
Like any foraging adventure – make 100% sure of your elderberry identification before ingesting either the flower or the berries.
The flowers are generally in bloom in mid-summer, the berries ready to harvest in late summer, early fall. This will vary by location. Ask around in your area from other foragers or gardeners.
If foraging feels out of the realm of possibility and you don’t have it in your garden or know someone who does, it is possible to buy dried elderberries.
As it happens, a lot of times, when we talk about elderflower, people look at us like they have no idea what we are talking about. Many of you have seen the elderberry tree, and you know what flowers look like, but you have no clue that we can use them in many ways. In the U.K, for example, people use elderflower to make cordial, medicines, etc. In the U.S, this flower doesn’t get the attention it deserves.
So what is elderflower? It is an edible blossom of the elderberry tree. These flowers are small but come in large dense clusters. The color goes from creamy white to pink in some cases. Talking about elderflower health benefits and flavor, we would like to say that it is very different from other flowers. That is the reason why even people who don’t particularly enjoy floral- flavored food don’t mind dishes or drinks made with elderflower. Tree blossoms in late spring. By late summer, flowers will turn into berries. Berries can also come in different colors, such as yellowish-white, red, bluish, and black. Most often, we see the black ones. Elderflowers are most known for their medicinal properties in tea, cordials, ointments, and spring tonics. However, people use the extract also for floral champagne and floral water. Now, we are going to talk more about elderflower’s healthy properties, benefits, and detriments.
Interesting that you don't include Washington state as part of the range for elderberries. I've been harvesting them for years, as did my mother before me. East of the Cascades they are abundant. They're the whitish ones, not the dark blue.
In reply to Interesting that you don't by Jeanne Barnum
I'm guessing you harvested Blue elderberry (Sambucus nigra ssp. caerulea), which could be whitish in some cases? Not sure as we don't have them here. The range map is for Common elderberry (Sambucus nigra ssp. canadensis).