Elder (Sambucus nigra) – Elder Lore and Elderflower Recipes

Elder (Sambucus nigra) - Elder Lore and Elderflower Recipes

The elder is a small but bountiful tree that usually grows on the woodland edge. The tree has an abundance of history and folklore surrounding it and was long regarded as sacred, protected by the elder-mother who resided in its trunk. (Many people would not cut or burn the wood for fear of upsetting the elder-mother.)  Believed to ward off evil spirits, it was considered good luck to plant elder near one’s home for protection. The word elder probably comes from the Anglo-Saxon word “aeld” meaning fire.

It has been called “the medicine chest of the common people” and the roots, bark, berries, leaves and flowers have all been used in a variety of different ways, from medicines to wines and facial toners to jams. The leaves, when bruised, keep away flies and most insects, so perfect for those balmy summer evenings in the woods! The tiny white flowers, which bloom from late May, mark the beginning of summer and there are many delicious recipes that feature them as a key ingredient. Below are two tried and tested favourites of mine.

Elderflower Cordial

For every ten flower heads I use one litre of water, 250-500g of white sugar (depending how sweet you like it) and 3 sliced and squeezed lemons.

So as not to waste the pollen, I tend not to wash the flowers, I just give them a little shake and check them over for insects. I try to use freshly opened blossoms, and not the slightly brown fading ones.

Bring the water to the boil, dissolve the sugar in it and pour over the elderflowers.  Set aside for 24 hours, stirring occasionally. Strain the liquid in muslin (or a stocking/pair of tights) and bottle into clean glass or plastic bottles. Dilute as necessary. It will keep for a couple of weeks in the fridge, or up to a year if frozen.

Elderflower Fritters


200g plain flour
250ml (half pint) milk
medium sized egg
Elderflower heads - 2-3 per person - with enough stalk to hold onto
50g sugar
pinch of cinnamon
grated zest of one orange

Mix all the ingredients apart from the elderflower

Heat some oil in a pan or deep fat fryer, dip flower head in batter and fry until golden brown, drain on kitchen paper, sprinkle with a little icing sugar and eat with a dollop of ice cream.

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Hi guys
Can anyone tell me how hard or easy it is to grow an elderberry tree and how much room is required


31 January, 2011


I think most of the folklore comes from the fact that the elder is such a great healer, and that if burnt in a ire place or wood burner, the deposits in the smoke build up and catch fire easily, or a witch will sit on your chimney.

Fraser Christian

19 November, 2009

I am a big fan of elderflower syrup – and have a webpage on how to make it.
http://www.jeremytaylor.eu/elderflower_syrup.htm Hope you enjoy it as much as I do!


29 June, 2008

Oh this website is just great, found it accidentally! I have a few elderberry trees in my “wild” garden so i am going to attempt the recipes offered, thank you!


11 June, 2008

try typing in autumn fruits….this has some great recipes.


28 May, 2008

Hello there, Here’s a recipe for Elderflower Wine;
Pick 2-3 pints of fully opened elderflowers, pushing them gently down into the container as you pick them. When you’ve got them home, gently shake off any insects, then rub the flowers gently, to remove them from the stalks into a large container; a clean bucket is ideal, enough to hold a gallon of water;(I trim off the top of the florets – don’t include too much stalk) Add the zest and juice of two lemons and 3 pounds of sugar (1.5 kilos). Boil up 1 gallon of water and pour over the flowers, lemon juice ,zest and sugar. Stir until the sugar is dissolved; Allow to cool to about blood heat, add a sachet of yeast (bread yeast from the supermarket) or 1 once (28g) of fresh yeast. Stir, leave 24 hours until fermentation begins, covered with a clean t-towel, then put into a demijohn and insert an airlock. When fermentation slows (sometimes, this can be quite vigorous!) and a sediment is thrown, (about 3-4 weeks) rack the wine off the sediment, into cleaned demijohn. Allow to clear and bottle into bottles that have been cleaned with boiling water. You can add a 1/2 to 1 teaspoon of sugar before you cork, but if you do, you must put champagne corks and wires on the bottles or tie the corks down, as this can be a very sparkling wine!!!(I recommend you try the basic recipe first!) The longer you keep the wine, the better, but, as with most flower wines, they can be drunk quite soon after bottling. You get 6 x 75cl bottles per demijohn and it is well worth the effort!! Suzanne.

Suzanne Garner

28 May, 2008

dear Jade,loved reading about Elderflowers,i love them.Ive just been out this morning picking some heads to make Elderflower cordial,but ive made it with White Wine Vinegar?Do you know why?Can you make it with Apple Cider Vinegar,does it keep longer with vingar and out of the fridge.And i would love a jam recipe….theres a real buzz picking what God has provided.

ma martin,deborah

24 May, 2008

does any one have a recipe for elderberry cordial including cloves, used as a treatment for colds? – my great aunt used to make it but the recipe has got lost with time! Trudie

Trudie Roberts

24 May, 2008

Thanks Jade, I am going to have to try that!


Tracy Pepler

2 May, 2008