A Rain To End And A Flower To Begin How to Pick and Store Elderflowers

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How to Pick and Store Elderflowers

The elder (or Sambucus nigra) has long been associated with summer in the British Isles, and as such appears to grow regularly in the UK, along with further places including Europe and North America. It has a long history of use in various household recipes, medicines and cosmetics, including teas, cold and flu remedies, and the ever-popular elderflower cordial. So how can you make the most of this freebie?

If the weather is good, elderflowers start to bloom in late May (in the UK) and are abundant throughout June. It is best to pick elderflowers on a dry day when the flowers are dry – so avoid picking when it is damp from rain or morning dew. You want the flowers to open but if they start to turn brown, it’s really too late. Cut the main stem instead of trying to tear or pinch it, as this avoids damage to the crop and the plant. You’ll also want to avoid crushing them once picked – a wicker basket is ideal, although keeping them in a carrier bag works just as well (just don’t squash them in there!).

Remember, you never want to cut off a bare tree – or there won’t be any berries to harvest at the end of the year. As a golden rule, take what you will use – nothing more is wasted.

If using fresh, I suggest using them within 24 hours at the most, otherwise they will start to brown and die. It is sufficient to store them in a cool, dark room or garage until use.

Alternatively, if you want to store them for weekend use or want them to last year round, drying them would be a better option. You simply spread them out on a tray in a cool, ventilated area and they will dry in a few hours. This way their color will fade slightly, but they will fill the room with their honey-like aroma as they dry. Whether you should pinch the flower stems before or after they dry is a matter of personal preference.

Once dry, you can gently brush off the flower stems (if they weren’t removed before drying) and then store in brown paper bags or glass jars – out of direct sunlight. They will keep for a year – after this time it’s best to make a new batch to replace them.

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