I’ve got a great guide to edible flowers for you today!
If you’ve been reading Moral Fibres semi-regularly then you’ll know that I’m into foraging. From nettles to elderflowers and elderberries, to sloes and blackberries and everything in between, it’s becoming a bit of a passion of mine. Free food – what’s not to love about it?!
Whilst reading about foraging online (as you do!) I came across this handy guide to edible flowers on the blog Illustrated Bites. Illustrated Bites is the creation of US illustrator Heather Diane, and combines her love of food with her love of illustration. Her recipes and posts use seasonal produce, which is another love of mine. And although there haven’t been any new posts in a little while, there is a word of a book coming out next year, which is very exciting!
Heather’s guide to edible flowers is a little US-orientated. There aren’t so many hibiscus flowers on our UK shores after all! However, her guide still holds plenty of relevance for anyone living in the northern hemisphere! Think dandelions, sunflowers, nasturtiums, lilacs, and more, which are all common in the UK.
A Handy Guide to Edible Flowers
Were there any edible flower surprises here for you? I personally had no idea that lilacs are edible. Also, sunflower petals and buds were a big surprise too! I must remember this when we grow sunflowers next year!
If you have any recipes for edible flowers then please do also share in the comments below! Also, do add any other edible flowers that you like to use in your cooking, as I am sure there are heaps more!
Want to know my secret elderflower cordial recipe? Read on for the full details!
Can you believe I’ve been waiting to share this elderflower cordial recipe with you for a whole year? I made this boozy elderflower cordial at the peak of elderflower season last year. However, I didn’t want to share it before tasting it in case it didn’t taste right. By the time it was ready and had the Moral Fibres seal of approval, elderflower season was over.
As it tasted so good, this year I thought I’d share the homemade elderflower cordial recipe early on in the season. This means there’s plenty of time for you to go out and pick! Here in Edinburgh, the elderflowers are just coming out into bloom at the moment. If you’re further south they may in bloom already.
Step One – Foraging for Elderflowers
My secret elderflower foraging spot!
First up you’ll need to find and pick your elderflowers. Elderflowers are pretty ubiquitous around the UK and are likely to be found in woods, besides rivers or canals, in graveyards, etc. Another common place is beside roads, but I’d tend to avoid picking beside busy roads.
Elderflowers are quite easy to spot. Look for a flowering bush, with delicate white flowers and a distinct sambuca-like smell. If in doubt I found a handy elderflower identification guide that you might find useful. If you’re still in doubt don’t pick anything and ask an expert!
This is what you’re looking for!
Once you’ve found your elderflowers bear in mind it’s best to pick elderflowers on a dry sunny day, in the morning, when the flowers are at their most fragrant. This apparently translates to a richer sweeter flavour, but if it’s late afternoon don’t worry too much! Avoid picking at ground level (dogs!) – instead, pick from the higher branches. You also want to make sure that you pick nice creamy white flower heads. Anything brown or a bit discoloured may taste a bit bitter.
Give the flowerheads a good shake before you put them in your bag to dislodge any insects, and try not to pick from just the one bush. The elderflower cordial recipe calls for about fifteen elderflower heads.
This boozy elderflower cordial is smooth and mellow, and is the perfect taste of summer all year round. Serve with tonic or soda water, or lemonade, or serve straight up over ice.
A 1 litre capacity jar
About 15 elderflower headssee above for how to identify and pick elderflowers
1litre of cheap generic vodka
One large lemon
Dip your elderflowers in water and give them a good shake to dry. Peel a lemon, and keep the peel to the side.
Then add your flowers to a sterilised jar, adding the lemon peel as you go so it’s evenly distributed in the jar. Keep going until you’ve added as much elderflower as the jar will hold and all of the lemon peel.
Add 5 teaspoons of sugar, about 5 mls of juice from your lemon, and pour in the vodka until you’ve completely submerged all of the elderflowers. Screw the lid on and give the jar a good shake.
Leave for four weeks in a cool dark place, shaking occasionally to mix the sugar in.
During the four weeks it’s really worth occasionally opening your jar to check that the vodka is still covering the elderflowers otherwise the top ones might go a bit brown and make it taste a bit bitter. If this happens just take out the brown flowers and top up with more vodka.
Once your four weeks are up sieve your mix to remove the flowers and lemon peel, and decant your flavoured vodka into a sterilised bottle or jar. It will keep for onwards of a year!
You can drink your cordial straight over ice, or add some lemonade, tonic, or soda water (see my guide to ethical soft drinks for some of the best ones) for a refreshing summer drink.
You can also add any flavours you want to your elderflower cordial. I added a punnet of local raspberries in another jar and it turned out beautifully. Elderflower cordial tastes like summer at the best of times, but the addition of raspberries was extra summery! Strawberries, cherries or blackberries would also work well, I’d imagine. However, blackberries are never ready here in Edinburgh in time for elderflower season!
I got a bit carried away and ended up with three large jars of elderflower cordial! I had intended to give some of it away, but, ahem, that didn’t quite happen…! I’m slightly embarrassed to admit that after a year this is all we have left of our supply:
Needless to say I’ll be out elderflower foraging in the next few weeks, and getting funny looks at the local shop for buying so much vodka!
Hope you enjoy this elderflower cordial recipe – bottoms up!
ps: keep an eye out for elderberries later in the season. You can make this delicious non-alcoholic spiced elderberry syrup from them! I made a small batch last year, which we used up far too quickly. I have made a mental note to make triple what I made as it was just incredible (and I’m not 100% certain if it was down to the syrup but I didn’t catch a cold once over the winter season…).
I'm Wendy and welcome to Moral Fibres, a UK based eco blog. I'm a sustainability expert, and my aim is to make sustainability simple, by researching and writing on all things environmental - from product guides to breaking down big ideas - so you don't have to.
As well as the blog I've also written a book on natural cleaning - Fresh Clean Home is out now!
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