Elder, I love you

There isn’t a tree in my garden I love more than my elder tree.

To me, the elder is just magical. It’s so talked about in folklore that it has gained mythic proportion – and after enjoying them in the hedgerows in England, it was the first tree we planted on our property. I’ve taken cuttings from it and hope to have a whole plantation of them one day.

The Anglo-Saxons thought that elders represented both good and evil – that if you cut an elder down, a witch would manifest in its place, but also that it would keep witches at bay (they were planted near wells and at the door of newly weds). If you fell asleep under the heavy scent of an elder in full bloom, you would be carried off to the world of the fairies and be protected from snakes and evil spirits.

Elderberry Cordial

Not only that, they have medicinal properties – a very high vitamin C content so that it is a great winter cold and flu remedy (simmer the elderberries with water to cover, then add strained liquid to a cup of honey). The flowers can be made into elderflower champagne, and the berries into wine and port (best mixed with another fruit such as blackberry). I keep elderberries in the freezer and add them to nutroast or gravy.

They also make a beautiful Christmassy cordial, and the colour of it in jars makes a very beautiful gift.

What have you made with elderberries?

Elderberry Cordial

4 cups of elderberries

Cloves

Cinnamon

Brown sugar

Juice of lemons, plus lemon slices (or any citrus fruit)

Cover the elderberries in water and simmer for about twenty minutes. Strain the juice into a clean saucepan, pressing all the juice and water from the berries. For each pint of juice, add about a pound of sugar. Add the cinnamon and cloves to taste – around 10 cloves, 1 tablespoon of cinnamon, a quarter cup of lemon juice and a slice of lemon per pint. Boil the mixture for about ten minutes. Allow to cool and then bottle in sterilised glass bottles.

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