The sight of Elder trees maturing is an exciting one for me, as it means it’s nearly summer, and time to make Elderflower cordial. I absolutely adore it and it is so much more satisfying to drink when you have put the effort in to collecting the flowers and waiting for it to be ready.
The flowers are just on the edge of coming out now, unless you can find some Elder in a very sunny spot, but this is a project that you could do over half term, or make a new batch each week with just a few flowers each time.
But…before you go running off to find your flowers, spare a thought for the tree itself and the creatures that live there… its not all about bug bees and butterflies.
(Also remember our rules of foraging, there must be at least 5 of what you want to pick to keep is sustainable).
Meet the Elder Flower Fairy:
Elder trees have been associated with Fairies, Witches, Daemons and Death (but not all in the order) for a long time and there is a lot of folklore and mythology around them.
Fairies have grow to fear and dislike humans because of our disregard for nature, so if you want to find them, apparently, the best time to try is on midsummers eve under an elder tree, where you may see a King and Queen riding a train! Fairies do love gifts, particularly sweet things, and things that glitter so you could leave a basket out under an Elder to make peace - but be aware that they won’t take the gift, instead they extract the goodwill and feelings from them so make sure you present it nicely (not like leaving cat biscuits out for a hedgehog!)
Elder is seen as a protective tree, with ancient folk believing that it was a good omen if it was growing near the home, and it would warn off evil spirits and other negative influences from entering. The odour from the leaves has long been believed to repel flies… which could help this evil spirit theory as it would stop flies entering the kitchen and spreading diseases, yuk. The flowers and berries have also been used for healing, and witches wands made from Elder were used to warn off danger, and help healing.
We never burn Elder wood, for three reasons. 1. The sap makes it scream and spit when burning, which is not ideal 2. people believed that it was the devil spitting from the fire which represented death and 3. We now know that there are slightly toxic fumes that are emitted when it burns, eek.
So, instead of being used as firewood, Elder wood is loved by fairy folk (and lots of humans) for making musical instruments and jewellery because of its pithy core which is easy to remove and make a tube with.
This week I have a few Elder projects for you project - Elderflower cordial, fritters & elder beads… its a bit tricky to do instruments at home but I hope these are more achievable for you, and we all love cordial don't we!
Remember the fairies and tree spirits - is good manners to ask the Elder before you cut it, so many sure you do!
Please please do share your 'makes' with me, I really do love to see what you get up to, and this applies to all nature things you d at home, and the past projects.
Have fun :-)