Posts tagged ‘sambucus nigra’

June 19, 2012

Elder Flower Champagne -Recipe

by Ciaran Burke

Sparkling Elder Flower Recipe

Elder Flower “Champagne”

Sparkling elder flower has a low alcohol content, it is delicious. It is easy to make and it is the only alcoholic drink that my wife Hanna makes an exception for.


  • 12 elder flower heads
  • 8l water
  • 2 lemon, grate the zest and juice
  • 60ml of cider vinegar
  • 5 x 250g packets of Fruisana fruit sugar or use 1.6 Kg of sugar

Sparkling Elder Flower Recipe


  1. Wash or shake the elder flower heads to remove any bugs that might by crawling on them
  2. Place the flowers in a plastic food bucket, add the vinegar, lemon juice and lemon zest
  3. Add the water a litre at a time stirring in some of the fruit sugar to dissolve.
  4. When all the water has been added, put a lid on the bucket and leave it for two or three days
  5. Strain the liquid through muslin cloth into sterilized bottles. You can use either glass bottles with screw caps or plastic bottles that previously had fizzy water or fizzy drinks.
  6. Leave in a cupboard for a few weeks. Check the bottles regularly and unscrew them slightly every now and again to ensure that there is not too much pressure building up in the bottles, other wise they might explode.

Bottles of sparkling elderflower

June 17, 2012

Green Elder Shoots – Recipe

by Ciaran Burke

Green Elder Shoots in brine

Green Elder Shoots in Brine

This is an old recipe, and an odd one. While elder flower coridals and elder flower ‘Champagne” are becoming more widely known, I bet not many people are trying out the new green shoots!

In spring and early summer the common elder, Sambucus nigra, produces very vigorous strong green shoots from the base of the plant and sometimes the green growths arise along older branches. These can be cut, peeled and after being soaked in salted water overnight they can be eaten raw or cooked. The most surprising thing is that they are very tasty.

Collecting the shoots

Cut the vigourous green growths in late spring. They can be a metre long or more, Do not collect any woody portions of the stems. If you try them and like them, it moght be an idea to have a couple of shrubs of Sambucus nigra that you grow especially for stems. S. nigra is an ideal plant for coppicing, that is hard pruning in late winter. By cutting the previous years growth to with in 10cm of the base in February each year strong vigorous shoots will be produced. Not all of these should be harvested, leave some to grow and produce food for the following year’s growth, much like on would treat asparagus.

Cut elder stems

Preparing the shoots

Remove the very soft tips and the leaves. Discard any portion of the stem that is becoming woody, either cut it or snap it away.

Use a sharp knife and remove all the skin from the stem. It peels away very easily.

Peeling the green elder stems with a sharp knife

When you have peeled the shoots cut them into 15cm lengths or what ever size suits. Lie the peeled shoots in a bowl, cover with water and add salt, a teaspoon in about 400ml should be enough and then add a squeeze of lemon. I find that the lemon helps preserve the colour.

Green elder shoots in salted water

Leave the stems over night. The following morning refresh the water, place the shoots in a sterilized jam jar with screw top lid. You can use less salt and add a squeeze of lemon juice to help preserve the shoots.

I am not sure how long the elder shoots will hold in this way, we are still experimenting!

Elder shoots on goats cheese toasts

A quick and tasty snack, easy to prepare.


  • Slices of brown bread
  • Clove of garlic
  • Kilmallock organic goats cheese (my preference but you can use cheddar or any cheese)
  • Dried oregano
  • Some green elder shoots in brine


  1. Toast the bread in a toaster, meanwhile peel the garlic clove and slice or grate cheese, enough to cover your bread slices, heat up the grill too!
  2. When bread has popped from the toaster rub the peeled garlic on one side of the bread.
  3. Place the cheese on the side rubbed with garlic, sprinkle with oregano and slice the elder shoots in half and place on top.
  4. Place bread under the grill and toast until the cheese has melted.
June 16, 2012

Respect Your Elders – Elderflower Cordial Recipe

by Ciaran Burke

Elder flowers and foliage- cultivar selection

It’s wild. Its everywhere. Its elder flower –Sambucus nigra. In the month of June its flat flower heads whiten hedgerows and fields around Ireland. Outside my office window I can see the branches bob and sway with the breeze. Seedlings all too often appear in the garden, unwanted, in abundance. But I don’t mind, the elder flower is a handsome plant and it provides much pleasure, not only to look at, but for the taste buds too.

There are some really good garden varieties of the common elder. The dark leaved S. nigra ‘Black Beauty’ not only has dark seductive divided leaves but also bears beautiful pink flowers. Just like the wild one, it is vigorous and tough. If elders are pruned hard in the spring they re-grow with increased vigour and produce enlarged foliage, but flowers are absent. Dark leaved cultivars can be treated in this manner to produce excellent foliage plants. They provide interest to a herbaceous or mixed border. The finer leaved S. nigra ‘Black Lace’ is excellent when treated this way.

One of my favourite is the green cut leafed cultivar, S. nigra ‘Laciniata’. A beautiful textured plant with darker green foliage than the native species. The flowers are said to be bigger too, but I have been cutting our plants back each year. I moved one to a new position this Spring, this one I will leave to flower. Another with intriguing foliage is S. nigra ‘Marginata’, the leaves are edged with creamy white variegation. It produces flowers in the same way as the species.

The flowers will fade by mid-July and in the Autumn the dark purple berries hang in masses from the branches. Both the flowers and fruit can be made into a delicious cordial. The fruits can also be used for making wine and last year we used the fruits to make an autumn pudding, a recipe I got from an old book which also used sloes and blackberries. A closely related species is the North American S. canadensis. This flowers later in July and I have read that it can produce flowers over a longer period.We have one in a pot which we purchased as a small plant from Turku Botanical Gardens in Finland last summer. I plan on planting this in the garden in the next few days, the idea of being able to harvest elder flowers throughout the whole summer really appeals to me.

Over the last couple of weeks we have been cutting flower heads to make Elder Flower Cordial. if you have not tasted home made cordial, you are really missing out. Sweet and delicious, diluted with still or sparkling water, the taste of summer…

Elder flower cordial is very easy to make. Here is how!


  • 10 or 12 Bunches of cut flowers, freshly opened flowers are best.
  • 0.5 Kg (1lb) Fruisana fruit sugar
  • 3.0 L water (about 5.5 pint) of water
  • A lemon cut in four

Elder flowers and lemon


I use a  plastic food storage bucket

  1. Wash the elder flowers in cold water.
  2. Place the flower heads in the jar with the cut lemon
  3. Leave in a cool place for 48 hours so that the flavour of the elder infuses.
  4. In a saucepan heat the water and elder flowers, remove the lemon. (you can use the lemon separately to make lemonade)
  5. Dissolve the sugar in the water and bring to the boil.
  6. Strain the fluid through a muslin cloth and fill into sterilized bottles
  7. Store in a cool dark place.

To enjoy the cordial dilute with water (still or sparkling) about 1 part cordial to 10 water or to taste. It is also great when added as a dash to apple juice.

Elder flower- Sambucus nigra

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