Wednesday, 22 June 2011

Respect your elders

There is a new industry in town. Trending. On Twitter, stats are compiled, shared and even called 'news' by journalists on the words people use. But only words with a # in front of them. So anything trendy on Twitter is consciously created...

And it's just not cool to try to be cool. Genuine trends appear because they capture the imagination.

I'm not sure if the #elderflower has ever been considered trendy, but among the garden/food/drink/foraging connoisseurs it certainly appears to be cool, taking hold of culinary passions everywhere. I've found recipes popping up for  Elderflower vinegar, ice-cream, turkish delight, chocolate, buttercream, cordial of course, jam, jelly and yes, cocktails.

One particular favourite is Elderflower champagne, which just sounds right. For those who like their Britishness to be a bit more humble and respectful but still proud, it gives creative ownership within a superior foreign product.

Imagine my excitement when, by my backdoor, I spotted these:

Earlier in the year I thought I had weeds growing there. They were around the base of a tree and not causing much bother so I left them, and they duly flowered.  Whilst preparing my blog in defence of weeds, my mind jumped to photos of elderflowers on other blogs. Could it be that I have my very own supply?

As normal, I have no idea.

Is there anyone out there who can confirm whether mixing this white beauty with bubbles will poison me in a bad way, or a good way?

The champagne is on ice, awaiting an experts verdict...


Nome said...

Tom, sadly this isn't the kind of elder you're after. It's ground elder (actually unrelated) and it's an invasive weed, so keep it well away from your veg patch!

It's not all bad news though - ground elder leaves can be eaten like spinach or used raw in salads. A Google search will turn up a few recipes.

Elderflowers are best identified by their tart, lemony aroma. The flowers grow among the leaves rather than up on tall stems like in your picture.

You should also be aware that the deadly hemlock is in the same family as ground elder and the flowers look identical, so please look at a few leaf and stem pictures online and be doubly sure of my identification before you eat any! (Hemlock leaves are more ferny and the plants are taller, so from your picture I'm pretty sure, but the stuff really is deadly.)


Paul and Melanie said...

I hate to be the barer of bad news but I am pretty sure that isn't Elder... That looks like a weed/wild plant we have loads of around here, dont know the name though. For elder you want a proper tree/large woody bush type thing... Oh, and if the flowers are even slightly going over you DON'T want to pick and use them, they wil make whatever you use them in taste horrible. I think we're coming to the end of the season too so they might be harder to find than they were a few weeks ago.... Sorry... :(

Esther Montgomery said...

If you do find an elder tree - the elderberries make good wine. They also add a deeper flavour to blackberries if a few are put in while cooking. (The flowers round here are more or less over and the berries are small and green - but they will ripen.)


Hapless kitchen gardener said...

Great comments all of you, thank you. With the help of garden detectives from here and Twitter, this little imposter has been unmasked and I've been saved at best from nasty bubbles and at worst, certain death!. I';; now be on the hunt for wild elderflowers, but I sense they're extremely popular and there may not be many left!

Geoff said...

I'd make sure you get rid of the ground elder asap, before it spreads all over the garden.

Hapless kitchen gardener said...

Thanks Geoff, yes it's about to be removed forcefully from the garden!

The Hapless Kitchen Gardener

My photo
I only feel hapless because some people make it look easy to grow 10 ft marrows or a banquet of greens whereas my courgettes got nabbed by killer slugs and I only got one raspberry. So tips and stories from people less hapless than I are more than welcome. As a disclaimer though, none of my comments should be taken as expert advice on which you can rely! © Unless stated otherwise, and with the exception of guest content where that guest retains copyright, all photos and posts are the copyright of Tom Carpen and may not be used without permission.