Country mouse on the wonders of the elder tree

The first little gem lettuces that need harvesting, the village fête and dog show (no prizes this year-the judge didn’t seem to like any children showing their pets), plus the wonderful Royal Bath and West show have all had to compete for my time with gazing at the creamy-white hawthorn trees and picking the elderflowers to eat straight off the tree, where they taste delicious, or, even better, fried in a batter.

Elder itself is foul smelling, and we used to tuck it into the brow band of our ponies to ward off flies; many once called it the devil’s tree, and others the fairy tree. It’s certainly a tree of contrasts, as the flowers are scented like sweet Muscat and make a wonderful cordial:

Elderflower cordial

Ingredients: 20 elderflower heads, 2½ pints boiling water, 3½lb sugar, 1 sliced lemon, 2tsp citric acid (available from the chemist)

Put all the dry ingredients into a clean pan and pour boiling water over them. Stir until sugar is dissolved. Skim off the surface scum. Cover with a cloth or lid. Stir twice daily for five days. Strain through a muslin and bottle. It’s best consumed within two weeks, although it’ll keep for a month if bottled.

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