My Grandparent’s garden (which was in Devon England), had a great influence on me when I was a young kid. It was a place filled with rose arches, bird houses, bird baths, wild flowers, shrubs, herbs, vegetables and fruits. I spent a lot of time at play but I also learned a lot.
I remember standing under the Elderberry tree in late summer/autumn with an abundance of tempting tiny black berries above me extended from their bright red stems.
I always thought they would be sweet to taste like black currants but they were quite deceiving
The taste was very tart and quite inedible but they were fun to pop between my fingers! I didn’t know back then that Elderberries could be used to make Elderberry wine! Having sampled some commercial versions of it, I can not enthusiastically recommend it, but an old friend of mine once made his own Elderberry wine from these tiny berries and it tasted very smooth, like a dark Cabernet port. It really was superb. It’s possible to make Elderberry Jam or syrup too.
IT GETS BETTER…
In the early summer, typically around June (depending on the country) those same trees are covered with tiny blossoms. Very fragrant buttery colored flowers extended from stems. The fragrance reminds me of sweet honey.
I’m looking forward to gathering these tiny blossoms in June because they can also be made into a variety of things. My favorite thing to do with them is to make an Elderflower Cordial.
You can buy Elderflower cordial that is commercially made and some of them are really delicious! Try mixing some into Champagne! (You will thank me later!)
Also, delicious when mixed into pure chilled water with a lemon slice and a sprig of English mint. Perfect and elegant on a summer’s day.
These trees or shrubs, like to grow wherever there is a stream or creek. Be cautious before you try picking the flowers because they can be confused with other similar looking flowers that could be poisonous.
MYTHS & LEGENDS
The Elder tree is sacred to the faeries. It’s told that if you sit under an Elder tree on mid summer’s eve that you may see the fairies. It is therefore advised to never harm or cut one down. Some believed that the tree would provide protection from evil spirits while others believed that the Elder was home to the witch. The Faeries are said to have used the hollowed out wood to make musical instruments.
The leaves of the tree are an insect repellent. Sometimes the branches are hung from horses bridals to repel the bugs. I learned as a child not to eat/taste any part of the leaves or branches as they are toxic.
The flowers however are safe and delicious when made into a cordial