What kind of wand did Harry Potter defeat Voldemort with? It was ELDER! And for good reason, because Elder’s magic is legendary across cultures. I will do another post about Elder’s MAGIC when the berries are ripe, but for now I want to focus on the frilly, divine FLOWERS.
Elderflowers are an UMBEL, as are Yarrow and Queen Anne’s Lace, meaning that the individual stems of the small batches of flowers that make the flower head all arise from a single point and often are a different lengths to make the flower head flat – or fairly flat – across the top. Think of the word “umbrella” and how the supports of an umbrella reach out to hold up the fabric of the top all as one piece. It’s slightly rounded, but even.
The flowers of Elder are beautiful and they smell wonderful, but they don’t last long and will wilt quickly after gathering. If left on the plant they disappear fairly quickly too, soon to be dark purple elderberries.
When gathering Elderflowers or any wild plant, be sure to take some time before gathering to ground yourself and open your heart to the plant, asking for permission to gather and listening with your heart for the answer. If the plant gives permission, have some way to reciprocate after gathering – leave some organic cornmeal or tobacco (traditional Native American offerings which arose from close connection to Earth and her plants) or some good-quality compost is a welcome gift too. If nothing else, a song or a prayer for the Elder’s wellbeing and a heart full of gratitude for her generosity.
Elderflowers can be dried or tinctured for later use as medicine, and they are a valuable addition to the home herbal apothecary. Use as an ally for colds and flu, helping reduce the duration and ease symptoms. Elderflowers boost the immune system and have antiviral properties. They also support the respiratory system, helping to thin mucous and act as a decongestant. If there is a fever involved, Elderflower is a gentle diaphoretic, which means it helps support the body’s fever response, helping the body open the pores and break a sweat, making the fever both more effective and shortening the duration.
To add a boost to elderberry syrup, dry the flowers and add them as part of the syrup when processing the berries.
Elderflowers have a reputation for improving skin issues. They can help even out the complexion, and even reduce age spots and wrinkles. Elderflowers are a good addition to healing salves and bruise oils too, as they can help speed healing of wounds, bruises and inflammation. Dry and infuse in olive, almond or safflower oil (or a combination) to make an amazing skin-beneficial and divinely aromatic after-bath body oil.
Elderflowers contain a natural yeast, so they ferment beautifully into a delicious “champagne.” I usually make Elderflower champagne around summer solstice (mid June) and enjoy some of it at Lammas (beginning of August). If there is any leftover after that, it is enjoyed at later holiday celebrations. It is fizzy and delicious, and perfect for remembering the taste of sweet summer days. Recipe is below. Enjoy!
For PRINTABLE recipe, click here: PRINTABLE RECIPE
Heat 4 cups water with the sugar until sugar is completely dissolved. Let cool a bit, then pour into gallon jar. Add more filtered water to fill the jar halfway or so. Add in the thinly sliced lemons and white wine vinegar. Then use a clean scissors to snip the little flowers off the head. Don’t worry about the thin green stems at the top of the flowerhead, but try to keep out any of the thicker stems. Stir. Then fill the jar to the neck with additional filtered water. Stir again.
Cover with clean cloth and secure with rubberband. Sit in dark cupboard or cover with a brown paper bag on the counter for four days, Taking a peek and stirring each day. Look for signs of fermentation (bubbling). If you don’t see any by the second day, add 1 tsp. yeast (any yeast you have on hand is fine).
After the fourth day, sterilize the bottles or quart canning jars. Then strain the champagne well, squeezing out as much liquid as possible (I like to use a cotton/hemp almond milk bag for this). Pour into bottles/jars, leaving an inch or more headroom in each of the bottles/jars. Place in dark cabinet or on countertop (cover with cloth or brown paper sack to keep out light) for two weeks.
After two weeks, move bottles/jars to refrigerator and serve chilled. The yeast is alive, and the champagne will continue fermenting, but the refrigeration will slow down the process considerably. It will increase in dryness and alcohol content (and decrease in sugar content) as it ages. Fermentation creates pressure, so be aware of that and use caution when storing and opening. It will keep for a long while, and some years we haven’t opened it until winter solstice. It was delicious.
Enjoy this fantastic elixir of summer. It is a great way to capture the taste of summer in a bottle.
Use CAUTION! Do not eat/use a wild plant unless you have 100% certainty it has been identified correctly. If you have a health condition, are taking pharma meds, or are pregnant/breastfeeding, be sure to research contraindications.
Disclaimer: Every body is different, and any plant can cause an unpleasant reaction depending on the person. Start small and listen to your body – it is the ULTIMATE AUTHORITY. This information has been compiled from reputable herbalists and natural care professionals. It is intended for educational purposes only. These statements have not been evaluated by the FDA.This information is not intended as medical advice, nor is it intended to prevent, diagnose, treat, or cure any disease. Seek professional medical care for health concerns.