You could be thinking one of two things right now: either “Mmm, that recipes sounds delicious, and it has elderflowers and rosemary in, too. Wow! I can’t wait to try this out” – or – “As if anyone’s gonna go out and pick elderflowers to put on their breakfast, I mean really.. all sounds a bit lar di dar to me.. and what the bloody hell is chia? Pass me the cocoa pops, love”. If you fall into either of those categories or somewhere in between, then let me tell you now – firstly, you don’t have to put elderflowers and rosemary flowers on your breakfast, and secondly, if you do want to put elderflowers and rosemary flowers on your breakfast, now is the time to do it as elderflowers are currently in season and ready for picking!
This is an elderflower tree and these are the flowers that you will be picking (just in case you were unfamiliar with elderflower). They are native to Europe and you will find them growing throughout the UK, especially in hedges, woods and wasteland. If you have any fields or walks with hedges near where you live, keep an eye out – the chances are you will find one of these beautiful trees staring you right in the face! For some reason, I have always thought that it is only the dark purple berries you pick from an elder tree, and that the flowers were just something you looked at and went “Ahh, aren’t they pretty?“. It is in fact the big flat bunches of tiny cream coloured flowers that you collect in order to make your cordial, syrup or to sprinkle on your breakfast for example! Elderberrries are usually picked to make wine, and are in season in the UK during the autumn (unlike the elderflowers which are at their best around the end of May to mid June. i.e NOW).
I am very lucky to have a big stretch of open land five minutes away from my house where elderflowers are growing abundantly. I have been getting up early in the morning with a plastic Asda bag in hand and filling it with the delicate white flowers to use throughout the day. The flowers give your immune system a kick up the backside, and have fantastic antiviral properties, too. If you suffer from water retention, the flowers also act as a diuretic, as well a being used traditionally to treat colds, influenza, sinusitis and excess mucus – nice! As well as the many healthy benefits elderflowers contain, they also look really pretty and will liven up any salad or breakfast beautifully. If you’re having a dinner party, sprinkle some on your food to look posh and show off to your guests. When it comes to taste, you actually can’t really taste the flowers when they’re mixed with something else as the flavour is so delicate. When the flowers are used for making syrups or cordials however, the sweet floral flavour intensifies due to the high concentration levels (and the bucket full of sugar that is usually needed to make said syrups). Whether you can taste the flowers or not, to go out and pick your own food and herbs to use during the day or for the months ahead, is a wonderful activity and one to get you connected to nature. If you do decide to do a bit of foraging though, make sure you take the necessary precautions and do a bit of research first – you don’t want to be in hospital first thing in the morning, that would not be a good start to the day. I highly recommend Zoe Hawes book Wild Drugs: A Foragers Guide to Healing Plants, it’s easy to understand and has got lovely photographs of all the plants she writes about. Hawes also tells you how to eat them, and also how to make tinctures and infusions to help reap the full benefits of each medicinal plant.
I feel a bit bad now as I’ve just realised I have completely neglected telling you about rosemary flowers! Poor little things. I’ve already gone on a bit so I’ll have to cut this one short – basically, if you’ve got a big rosemary bush growing in your garden and it’s got little lilac coloured flowers on – pick them and sprinkle them on your food. You can also find rosemary growing in hedges and beside foot paths, just have a look next time you’re out walking and you may be pleasantly surprised! You’ll know it’s rosemary if you rub the leaves in your hand and smell it, the pungent scent of rosemary is unmistakable (if you know what it smells like, of course). The flowers have the same bitter aromatic flavour but not as intense as the leaves. Right! I’ve harped on long enough – here’s your recipe: