Elderflower cordial recipe

By Sarah Watson, forager, Wild Feast

Making your own elderflower cordial is simple and inexpensive, I add lime for extra zing. This cordial can be diluted as a drink, used in cocktails, as a drizzle, or an ingredient for desserts, sorbets and

ice lollies. The citric acid is optional if you’re using your cordial straight away – it extends the life of the
cordial by making it more acidic which helps prevent bacteria growing, and also adds tartness to the
flavour. You can get it from some chemists, home brew shops or online (choose a reputable
company).

Pick your elderflowers on a dry day (the pollen is important for flavour), and leave some flowers to
form fruit for wildlife later, as well as for elderberry recipes. Avoid any blossoms turning brown, and
pick those with the nicest scent. Choose blossoms that look clean, away from busy roads, or anywhere that may have been treated with chemicals.

Makes between 1.5 and 2 litres of cordial

Ingredients

  • 20-30 elderflower heads (unwashed)
  • 1.5 litres water
  • 1 kg sugar
  • 2 lemons, juice and zest
  • 1 lime (or another lemon if you prefer), juice and zest
  • 2 heaped teaspoons food grade citric acid (optional
    – you can add the juice of another lemon or lime for extra tartness instead, if you like )

Method

Shake the elderflowers gently to remove any insects. Use a fork or your fingers to remove the florets
(tiny flowers) from their stems into a large pyrex or ceramic dish (with a lid). Add the citrus zest to the
flowers.

Boil the water and pour it over the elderflowers and zest, cover with a lid and leave to infuse
overnight. Once cooled, it can be left in the fridge like this for up to two days.

Strain the citrus juice through a sieve, lined with a scalded jelly bag or muslin, into a saucepan. Then
strain the elderflower infusion. Add sugar and citric acid to the pan. Bring gradually to a simmer,
stirring to dissolve the sugar. Let it boil gently for a couple of minutes, then skim off any foam.

Funnel the cordial while still hot into warm, sterilised glass bottles, and seal. Alternatively let the
cordial cool, then pour into sterilised bottles leaving some room (at least 10%) in the bottle for
expansion, and freeze.

Once opened, store in the fridge and use within a couple of weeks, or several months if citric acid was
used. Dilute at around one part cordial to five parts water – fizzy or still – or try it mixed with sparkling
wine or cocktails.

Rose petal syrup recipe

By Sarah Watson, Forager, Wild Feast

All rose petals are edible, but when collecting rose petals for syrup, choose a fragrant rose variety that hasn’t been sprayed with chemicals. Japanese rose  (Rosa rugosa) is ideal as it’s naturalised in the wild but is a non-native, robust shrub that can be quite invasive.

Pick flowers that have recently opened and look fresh and clean. Take only the petals –
leaving the rest of the flower means rosehips may still be produced later in the year. Laying the petals
on a tray outdoors for around half an hour should allow any lingering insects to escape.

Makes a small bottle of syrup

Ingredients

  • A handful of rose petals
  • 500g sugar
  • 400ml water
  • Half a lemon, zested and juiced

Method

Layer several handfuls of fresh rose petals with 500g of white, granulated sugar. Massage the rose
petals gently with the sugar until they start to soften and bruise. Cover and leave for two to four days.

Add the sugar and petals to a pan with 400ml water and the lemon zest. Gently heat the liquid, stirring gently until the sugar dissolves. Strain through a fine sieve (you could dry the leftover sugary petals to use later), bring to the boil and simmer for 5 minutes or so, until the syrup thickens a little. Then just before taking the pan off the heat, add the strained juice of half a lemon and stir.

Funnel into a sterilised bottle and seal. Once opened, store in the fridge and use within a couple of weeks.

Edible flower power

By Sarah Watson, forager

Flowers beautify our homes and surroundings. Lilac and English lavender are much-loved garden stalwarts. Cheery dandelions and daisies brighten lawns. Colourful tulips and marigolds enliven flowerbeds, and primroses and violets grace the hedgerows. These floral treasures aren’t just a feast for the eyes, they can all be eaten…

Edible blooms have long been used; the Ancient Egyptians, Chinese, and Romans added them to food and drink. In today’s fashionable restaurant dishes and stylish social media posts, flowers look vibrant and elegant. But did you know many blossoms in our gardens, urban places and countryside can be used in everyday food – for free!

English lavender in flower

As well as giving colour and charm to our food, edible blooms can add crispness and taste, ranging from sweet and floral to savoury and spicy. Flowers are being turned to anew for the flavours they can bring to food and drink, sometimes as a way to help cut our sugar and alcohol intake.

And flowers really do have power! They’re sources of vitamins, minerals and dietary fibre, and can be rich in antioxidants that may help protect our bodies from disease. The age-old practice of using flowers as medicine is much in use by herbalists today.

Pavlova with forget-me-not, speedwell, bugle, primrose, rosemary, green alkanet and red clover flowers

Modern research suggests some flowers may be useful to treat physical or mental illnesses. Even looking at them helps us feel better: A study showed patients in hospital rooms with flowers needed less pain medication and felt more positive than patients in rooms without.

So feed yourself with nutritious flowers! Create stunning salads with borage, honesty and dandelion petals. Pickle chive blossoms or wild garlic buds, and infuse vinegar with red clover or elderflowers.

Salad with flowers of garlic mustard, yellow archangel, wild garlic, wintercress and ground ivy

Perfect for decorating cakes and desserts are daisies, violets, forget-me-nots, primroses and cornflower petals. Make syrup from honeysuckle, hawthorn and cherry blossom. Mince flowers into sugar, butter, buttercream icing, whipped cream or soft cheese – try rose petals or rosemary, and in savoury dishes, nasturtiums or chives.

Dry marigold petals, English lavender, chamomile or fennel flowers to use in teas, or as a baking ingredient or spice. Stuff courgette blossoms with cream cheese. Dip wild garlic flower-heads in tempura batter.

Fennel flowers

As nutritional information on edible flowers is limited, it’s best just to eat them in moderation. Not all are edible; some, like foxgloves and lily of the valley, are seriously poisonous. Others may have toxic stems, leaves or bulbs – like tulips, where only the petals are edible and the other flower parts should be removed. Check with a good foraging book or expert website.

Flower foraging tips:

  • They’re essential food for bees, butterflies and other insects, so leave plenty behind. Here’s a useful link from the Royal Horticultural Society for insect-friendly flowers to plant if you have a garden
  • Avoid any which may have been treated with chemicals (or fertilised with untreated manure) like those grown for bouquets and gardens.
  • Avoid harvesting from busy roadsides where they can absorb toxins.
  • For those who have a health condition, or are pregnant or breastfeeding, check flower types are suitable.
  • Be aware they can trigger allergic reactions, especially for those with hayfever, asthma or severe allergies.

Find out more about using the floral gems in gardens, towns and the country in my edible blooms list.

As always, be 100% sure of your identification before eating and do research what you intend to eat – if in doubt, leave it out.

Discover more about identifying and cooking with wild edible plants on a Wild Feast foraging & cookery course.  Get wild food and drink tips and updates on course dates on Facebook, or sign up for my e-newsletter (option to unsubscribe at any time).

Happy foraging!

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