The American elder, common elder, elderflower or sambucus canadensis is a flowering shrub commonly found growing in most US states along roadsides, ditches or hedges. It is characterized by ivory or cream-colored blossoms commonly known as elderflowers which come out in spring and early summer. The flowers occur in umbels featuring an umbrella-shaped cluster.
[Note: The stems, leaves and unripe berries of the elder plant can be toxic as they contain cyanide-inducing glycosides. However, elderflowers are perfectly safe to eat as long as you detach them from most of their stalks. In addition, the elder tree should never be mistaken for Hercules’ club or Zanthoxylum clava-herculis which has similar berries and leaves-the berries are toxic. Hercules’ club’s berry clusters are flat compared to round elder berries. In addition, hercules’ club’s stems are thorny, while elder stems are smooth.]
Elderflowers are not only used for medicinal purposes but are good on your plate. Here are elderflower recipes to try out:
Elderflower cordial is a beverage dating back as far as the ancient Roman Empire. In simple words, it is an ancient soft drink. While you can get a bottle at the store, you can also easily make yours at home.
As per tradition, the cordial is mixed with carbonated water just before drinking, but this recipe will use naturally bubbly sparkler.
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2 cups of hot water
7 pints of water
4 fresh elder blossom heads
Rind or juice of 1 lemon
3 ½ cups caster sugar
2 tablespoons white wine vinegar
Process: Mix sugar and hot water in a large glass container. Add the remaining ingredients and stir thoroughly. Cover the mixture and allow to sit at room temperature for 5 days. Strain liquid into sterilized flip-flop or screw bottles and allow to sit for 7 days.
Serve cold and garnish with lemon, mint or strawberry.
Elderflower cordial with duck
125g/5oz cherries, stones removed
50ml/2fl oz elderflower cordial
50ml/2fl oz cider vinegar
100ml/4fl oz rapeseed oil
Salt, to taste
Elder blossoms cordial make a great topping for duck. According to Chef Lawrence Keogh, you start by seasoning duck breast with salt and peppercorn. Then you warm a frying pan, coat it with vegetable oil and sear the duck on each side before reducing the heat and cooking for about 10 minutes. Flip once.
Meanwhile, simmer elderflower cordial with cherries in a saucepan and allow the pan to cool. Take out the cherries and put in cider vinegar, salt, and canola oil before tossing the cherries back in. Serve duck slices topped with a salad of red lettuce, mustard cress, elder blossoms, and lovage.
While it is quite easy to find the elderflower growing in ditches and roadsides, there is nothing common about having blossoms of this shrub on your plate.