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Food for Free: Elderflower

The UK is an incredible place for foraging with a year round supply of food that can be found for free. You don’t even need to have access to woodlands as many food that can be foraged thrives in urban areas as well. All you need to know is what’s in season and how to identify it. The title ‘food for free’ has been shamelessly stolen from Richard Mabey’s Collins gem pocket book which is an absolute must if this subject interests you!


May - mid June is when Elderflower is in season so get out there and start looking now! There are many plants that look like elderflower so make sure you’ve found the real thing before picking. The easiest way to identify an elder tree is by the leaves. You will see them in bundles of 5 arranged as in the photo below: 2 pairs of leaves opposite each other and then one pointing at the top. The leaves will have a serrated edge on them. The smell is also quite recognisable but if you are not familiar with it in the first place then this is a less useful identifier.

Ideally, you want to find some elderflower that is away from any main roads as car fumes can contaminate the flowers. Take a pair of scissors with you and snip the head of flowers off just below where all of the stems meet. Make sure to pick newly blossomed flower heads without any brown on them. If you are picking more than just a couple of heads, make sure not to take them all from one tree - spread the load.

There are plenty of elderflower recipes out there, from cordial to champagne or for a delicately flavoured cake, but I had a go at Nigel Slater’s Elderflower fritters.


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