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Elder (Sambucus nigra) is a deciduous bushy shrub that is also treated as a herb.
Elder leaves are light green in colour.
The elder flowers in clusters, in the early summer. The flowers are scented sweetly.
Berries form and ripen within six to eight weeks.
Elder can be grown from nursery-bought saplings or propagated from cuttings. If using cuttings, take the cuttings when pruning, in the later winter or early spring seasons.
Place good quality cuttings into moist, rich soil to root. Place in a sunny situation if possible. If you wish to use the flowers and berries, grow at least a few trees, in order to get a decent harvest.
Pick the flowers when every single sprig has come into bloom, not before. That way you'll get as many flowers as possible. Be careful when you pick, as the flowers crush easily and can bruise if brushed heavily.
Pick the berries when they are ripe.
Uses of elder
Elder flowers can be used to make cordials and liqueurs. The flowers can be steeped in drinks and added to fruit salad or other salads.
The berries can be stewed for dessert. Berries are also used in cordials and liqueurs or added to vinegar.
Here is a recipe for making elderflower syrup:
- 500g sugar for every 1 litre of elderberry juice (you'll be making the juice)
- A small piece of ginger
- 12 cloves
- 1/2 stick of cinnamon
- Tie the cloves and cinnamon stick into a small muslin or cheesecloth bag.
- Harvest the elderberries when ripe, plump and on a warm day. Wash and remove stalks, twigs and leaves.
- Place the elderberries into a large, heavy-based saucepan. Cover the berries with water.
- Allow the berries to simmer in the water. Continue cooking until the juice comes out of all the berries.
- Strain the berry skins out of the liquid. Add the sugar as per the suggested ratio.
- Heat in a saucepan again. Heat until a syrup forms. When formed, transfer to a sterilised bottle and seal. Keep in the refrigerator and use within several months.
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