I’ve spent a lot of time exploring our little corner of Suffolk since we moved here a year and a half ago. There are so many beautiful walks just beyond our front door, and several times a week I’ll choose a favourite route and strike off across the fields for an hour or two, not just for the physical exercise but for the quiet joy of being surrounded by nature and discerning the subtle changes in the landscape around me as we move through the seasons. The world feels particularly chaotic at the moment, and these solitary, mindful moments are so important for me to escape the relentless bad news cycles and to remind myself of all that is still wonderful in the world.
My explorations are also a useful opportunity to suss out the best foraging spots. Last year, I discovered the best places for picking nettles and blackberries, but the one thing that eluded me was elder. I knew of a gorgeous elder tree a mere ten minutes away from my old house, and I’d harvest the flowers in May for cordial, and use the late-summer berries for jams and syrups. But could I find an elder tree close to our new house? Could I heck! How ridiculous that our new rural idyll could fail me on something our previous urban locale delivered so easily!
Anyway, I was out walking my most familiar route the other week when I decided to take a fork in the path that I’ve previously ignored, not only because it would increase my usual walk by a good few miles, but also because the route passes a rather creepy-looking barn that’s framed by dead trees; not the most inviting outlook! Although I didn’t have the energy to take the full detour, I was curious to head a little way along this new path and see what I might find, and I’m so glad I did. I’d barely passed the barn when lo and behold, there was the elder tree in all its frothy glory!
Ade and I headed back there a couple of days later armed with scissors and bags, and after gathering my harvest of fragrant elderflower heads, we went home to make a couple of bottles of cordial (by adapting this recipe). It’s so refreshing when mixed with iced water on a hot day, but my favourite way to drink it is mixed with Prosecco for a beautifully summery aperitif!
I also used the cordial in this heavenly Elderflower & Lemon Drizzle Cake which I baked for my dad’s birthday during the week.
You do have to be quick with elderflowers, their season is so short, but they really are the quintessential taste of summer. Have you managed to find any elderflowers near you? I’d love to know how you use them!