There are currently an abundance of tiny, white elderflower clusters flowering along several of London’s cycle lanes and rivers.
Elder trees appear to be extremely prevalent in the Greater London area and throughout the United Kingdom.
Elder trees are widespread, with the exception of the far north of Scotland, and are often found in hedgerows and in forests.
Beginning in May and continuing through June, these trees bear beautiful, faintly scented blooms.
By August, these blossoms will have converted into deep claret elderberries, which are frequently boiled with sugar to make syrups, jams, and even wine.
Curious about wildcrafting but uncertain where to begin? Wondering how to identify and forage elderflowers in London? Don’t worry, this guide will clarify all your confusion.
How To Identify Elderflower?
Elderflower can be mistaken for various types of plants. Therefore, it is preferable to be aware of its key characteristics prior to foraging.
Here are some distinguishing characteristics of elderflower:
- When the Elder is at its peak in June, its leaves are nearly obscured by its white blossoms.
- Elderflowers have a floral “spray.” They appear to be spraying from the stem, as opposed to growing in a tight bunch.
- The color of elderflowers is light cream or soft yellow. Pollen gives flowers their fragrance and color.
- Elderflower with a somewhat brownish hue will be less fragrant…and less appetizing.
- The leaves have a serrated margin and are typically clustered in fives.
- Elderflowers do not grow from the ground, but rather from bushes.
- One of the most distinguishing characteristics of elderflowers is their aroma, which is flowery, milky, and “summery.”
- Elderflowers have slender, pale-green stems that branch into tiny ‘florets’ at the end of which flowers grow.
- Elderflower plants typically have black flies on their stems and blossoms, especially after they have bloomed.
- Prior to blooming, elderflower blooms are tight buds. As they grow larger, they take on a more creme-colored hue prior to flowering.
Never consume a plant that you cannot recognize. Do your homework. If using illustrated books, go online for credible images to ensure you are selecting the correct plant. If in doubt, do not consume.
When Is Elderflower In Season In London?
During a brief period between May and June, London is flooded with elderflowers that are at their peak.
Elder trees along the roadside, in hedgerows, parks, shrubs, wooded areas, and in someone’s front or backyard are adorned with small, creamy-white blossoms.
Who knew they bloomed in abundance next to us and not just in a beautiful setting in the middle of nowhere?
Elderflower may be picked by anyone and made into cordial, which is refreshing throughout the summer and pairs nicely with other delectable ingredients like sorbets, smoothies, ice-cream, cookies, cakes, cocktails, etc.
Where To Find Elderflower In London?
Before searching for elderflower, you must decide your destination.
Consider scrubland, hedgerows, playing fields, marshland, and woodland patches as examples of locations where plants have been let to flourish freely.
Several excellent London locations include Hampstead Heath, Hackney and Walthamstow Marshes, Islington Canal, Wormwood Scrubs, Wimbledon Common, and others.
It is easily confused with other flowers, so seek for distinguishing qualities such as light brown-grey bark, light green foliage, and 5-6mm white flowers held in flat, 10-25cm-diameter clusters.
One of the nicest places where you will find elderflowers in London is along the River Wandle, a tributary of the River Thames in the city’s southwest.
There is a lovely cycle/walking trail that spans around 12.5 miles (20 km) from East Croydon Station to the Thames Path near the Wandsworth Town train station and primarily follows the river.
How To Forage For Elderflowers?
If you decide to go elderflower foraging, consider the following:
- Bring a plastic bag and small gardening shears or scissors.
- On a dry, sunny day, the fragrance of the blossoms will be the strongest.
- Cut the stems carefully and maintain the blooms erect so that you don’t lose the precious pollen, which is the source of the distinctive flavor and aroma.
- Place the flowers carefully into the plastic bag, and then examine them at home. Do not wash the blossoms.
- Put on long pants. Most of the elder trees I’ve discovered are surrounded by nettle bushes, which give an itching rash if you touch them.
What To Do With Elderflowers
Elderflowers are utilized in a variety of ways, including desserts, beverages, and teas.
Elderflowers have a distinct aroma and flavor evocative of a sweet white wine and summer.
Elderflower cordial is a particularly delicious concoction that can be made by boiling the flowers for half an hour, straining out the solids, and adding sugar to the remaining water in proportion to the amount of flower water.
The resulting cordial can be added to beverages or desserts to create an extraordinary aroma. It can also be frozen and preserved to brighten winter evenings.
Similarly, the flowers can be dried and stored for use in cooking. Try incorporating a handful of flowers into cake batter or even pancake mix that is minimally flavored.
What Are The Health Benefits Of Elderflowers?
Elderflower has been thought to have medicinal and therapeutic effects for thousands of years.
You may have tasted elderflower in a refreshing summer cordial, but these flowers have many other applications.
As a result of the flowers’ antiseptic and anti-inflammatory properties, country inhabitants have used them in home treatments for centuries.
Elderflower and water can be used to alleviate symptoms of a variety of conditions, from the common cold to certain types of arthritis.
In addition to promoting healthy respiratory systems, elderflower has been used to promote healthy fever management.
Herbalists traditionally advise ingesting elderflowers everyday throughout allergy season to alleviate symptoms.
As they include anti-inflammatory effects, they can also be applied topically to soothe sore skin.