By Emma Grace Fairchild:
Its lacy fragrant blooms and summertime decadence make elderflower a special plant. Easily found in yards and forests for wild harvesting, its light floral nature makes it beautifully suitable for teas, jams, syrups and cordials. Because of its versatility and availability, elderflower is a taste that can grace your table for a fresh reminder of warmer times long after the summer months have passed.
Elderflower is a type of edible flower that grows around most of the northern hemisphere as well as Australia around late spring and summer months. It appears with creamy white blooms, typically covered with bees. Also referred to as sambucus, it is the same plant which produces the famous cold-busting elderberries after flowering. Throughout history it has been used for skin ailments, beauty treatments, and to aid in upper respiratory health. It also may be helpful in combating seasonal allergies. Elderflower can be used both fresh as well as dried, so if you have this in your area, it is a great idea to harvest a bit extra before the season is over and dry it flat on screens or on a plate to extend your use. For more information on harvesting wild edibles sustainably, check out
Most of the preparations for elderflower are exceedingly simple infusions that any chef can accomplish!
Let’s begin with a simple syrup. Once finished, you could use this on pancakes or waffles, mix into cocktails, or add to your homemade nut milks for a gentle, sweet flavor! A simple syrup is equal parts water and sugar, heated until dissolved. This makes producing anappropriately sized batch for the number of flowers you have and how much syrup you want very easy. Once the sugar is dissolved, pour the hot syrup over the rinsed and de-stemmed flowers (the bark and stems are not edible) and let it infuse for a few hours or a few days, covered and stored in a cool place, until the desired taste is achieved. Strain the flowers out of the syrup into a clean jar and keep in the refrigerator for up to a month.
Infused vinegar is easy also. Simply pour your favorite vinegar — whether apple cider, white or red wine, or any other light choice — over a jar filled with fresh, cleaned and de-stemmed elderflowers. Allow it to infuse for a month or longer before straining it, then pour into sterilized jars or bottles for future use.
When dried, elderflower becomes a lovely addition to tea blends. Try mixing it with other floral flavors like lemon balm, rose petals, or lavender; or keep it by itself for a true and gentle taste.