Elderflower Syrup

For the first time, and perhaps because of the recent confinement, when I tried out old-fashioned activities, I made a syrup from the flowers of the Elderberry (Sambucus racemosa) bush.

As is my wont, I looked up what there was to know about this plant. Apparently, when uncooked, all parts (leaves, twigs, flowers and berries) contain some cyanogenic glycosides, which are toxic. But clipping off the stems (even the little ones) keeps things safe enough for making a cordial. In Austria, Germany and England, elderflower syrup is very common, and making it a yearly ritual.

When I told my friends that I made this syrup, many touted the health benefits of the elderflower: it’s supposed to reduce inflammation, boost the immune system, and kill bacteria. I just like the delicate, fragrant flavour.

At this time of year, the elderberry bushes are in bloom; one can find them especially in riparian zones. The biggest challenge is finding clean white umbels that aren’t full of aphids, which are also in season.

The syrup was ridiculously easy to make, ‘though the trimming of the tiny flowers does take a while. It’s a meditative activity. The months in lockdown taught me patience: any task that took time became appealing.

Those of you in cooler climates can still take advantage of the elderflower blooms; here in Provence their time has past.

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