The elder (Sambucus nigra) is a familiar small tree or shrub with large, flat-topped cluster of beautifully scented creamy-white flowers. The elder can be found in woods and hedges, on waste lands and in gardens. It grows quickly and makes a thick stout hedge, providing a good shelter in a windy garden.
A very hardy perennial, it has light coloured bark and the leaves which have an unpleasant smell, are made of numerous leaflets. Dried and crushed, the leaves can be used as an insecticide in the garden. They also have fragrant flowers, blooming in early spring to mid summer, and they are followed by small shiny black berries.
In the kitchen, the elder flower and elder berries can be used in many different ways. The flowers make delicious sorbet ans syrups to add to fruit salads and summer drinks. A freshly picked flower dipped in batter and quickly deep fried makes a delicious pudding. The berries are delicious in pies and tarts. The elder berries must NEVER be eaten uncooked and nor should the raw juice be taken, as they can cause diarrhoea.
The flowers are gathered for drying just as they are opening and are stored in the usual way. The berries should be collected when fully ripe and are best bottled, frozen or used straight away. They can be used on their own or in combination with apples and plums in pies, tarts or fruit salads.
Elder flowers make a soothing, relaxing tea which is a helpful remedy for colds and headache.It can be used as an alternative for aspirin and s taken hot, last thing at night can help to prevent sleeplessness.
Elder Flowers Tea:
Pour a cupful of boiling water over 2 table spoons fresh or dried flowers
Leave to infuse for 10 minutes
Strain through fine muslin or cheesecloth
Sweeten with honey if necessary
Elderflower is marvellous cosmetic herb, with cleansing , soothing and healing properties. It softens, tones and whitens the skin and helps to clear away minor blemishes. Added to the bath water, will stimulate the circulation and soften the skin.
Pour 2 cups of boiling water over 3 heaped tablespoons of crushed flowers in porcelain pot
Leave it to infuse for 1-2 hours
Strain through fine muslin or cheesecloth, into jars
Store it in a refrigerator up to 3-4 days
Use the lotion at night and morning to cleanse and tone up the skin.
It can be used on dilated veins and is good for oily skin.