Elderflowers are a typical messengers of early summer and with their large white umbels they're beautiful to look at out in the fields. But what few people realize is that elderflowers can also be eaten!
What You Should Know About Elderflower
Elderflowers have been around since ancient times. The flower bears large white umbels that bloom in the early summer months. The best part is that not only do they look pretty, but they also taste delicious and can be used for various sweet summer specialties.
The elderflower is native to Central Europe and in similar climates, can easily be grown in your own backyard.
The flowering period of elderflowers is relatively short. Throughout most of the US elderflowers can be best picked in June. Because of possible pollution, you should avoid picking elderflowers that grow on the sides of busy roads.
Elderflowers have a beguiling scent and an intense, semi-sweet taste.
How Healthy Are Elderflower?
Even in ancient times people recognized that elderberries (the berries from elderflowers) are incredibly healthy. But the flowers themselves are also considered to be quite healthy since they contain flavonoids, essential oil, tannin and mucilage. A freshly brewed elderflower tea can even be used to combat the common cold.
To make elderflower tea just add two teaspoons of elderflowers to 8 oz of boiling water and let it steep for 10 minutes. Then run it through a strainer and drink the tea hot or let it cool down to room temperature and gargle with it to alleviate a sore throat.
In naturopathy, steam baths with elderflowers are considered effective against sinusitis and bronchitis, but can also be used to purify skin. Packets of elderflowers are also believed to help against a sunburn.
When collecting elderflowers, stick to picking the white umbels. The stems and green leaves are slightly poisonous and can lead to severe gastrointestinal problems.
People who are allergic to pollen should use elderflowers with caution as they can cause typical allergy symptoms.
Shopping and Cooking Tips
Dried elderflowers can be bought online or at a handful of speciality health stores. For the most part fresh elderflowers can’t be bought and need to be picked yourself.
If you want to use fresh elderflowers they should be prepared as soon as possible after picking. You can also dry elderflowers and store them in an airtight container in a dark place for several months to use them for tea or steam baths.
To dry, loosely spread elderflower blossoms on a baking tray and let them dry at 100 degrees fahrenheit (leave the oven open a crack). This is best done right after harvesting.
If you want to use the fresh elderflowers, it is best to briefly wash them and shake them to dry.
What To Make With Elderflower
For the elderberry cakes, elderberry flowers are traditionally dipped in dough and then fried. You can also make aromatic syrup or fine sparkling wine with elderflowers.