The Ever-Giving Elder

You know we’re moving into summer when the elder tree flowers burst into bloom.   Laden with large creamy-white clusters, the trees can be seen from afar along the road verges as elder trees grow prolifically here.   Known for their amazing muscatel fragrance, when the blooms burst open, it’s time for making elderflower cordial!

Over the last two weeks I’ve been harvesting blooms from our trees and making batches of cordial which is basically a sugar water syrup infusion.   Sweet tasting with its unique scent,  the cordial will be used throughout the season as an addition to our summer beverages.   I infuse it into my water kefir and kombucha to make something akin to a fizzy lemonade and we add it into cocktails to sweeten and enhance the flavour of our libations. It’s quite refreshing on a hot summer’s day.

The recipe is simple:

  • 25 – 30 elderflower clusters
  • 8 cups water
  • 6 cups sugar
  • 3T citric acid (helps with preservation)
  • 4 to 6 sliced lemons or limes and their zest

Melt sugar in warm water.   Pour over flowers.  Add lemon zest and sliced lemons.   Stir in citric acid.   Cover and set aside for 48 hours.  Strain & bottle.   Simple and easy and they make great holiday gifts!

You can watch me in this short video from start to finish!

But wait, there’s more!

Consulting my tree and herbal books, I discovered that the elder tree (sambucus niger or sambucus canadensis) has been revered throughout history and is surrounded by much ancient folklore and legend.

  • The Latin name sambucus is derived from a Greek word for wind instrument made from elder. Native American Indians called it the ‘tree of music’ as they made flutes from its branches.   Other cultures also used the branches and wood for instrument-making.
  • Many country folk associated this tree with magic – fairies and other magical creatures were thought to dwell in it. Traditionally associated with the White Goddess who brought benevolence and healing, the trees were commonly placed in gardens and on farmland to bring good fortune and protection.
  • The elder is a tree of beginnings and endings, of birth and death, so the elder fairy is a spirit of transformation and the crossing of thresholds. Generally seen as an old woman, the elder fairy advises on what to cast away and what to take up.   The elder carries the wisdom of the crone.
  • Elder is useful for the relief of ‘stuck’ emotionally congested states. It will help to move fears and bring clarity, easing worries and night fears.
  • Elders were planted in cemeteries to ward off evil spirits.
  • The elder is often associated with death and symbolises rebirth, transformation, and change. “In the dark days of winter, elder presents us with a mirror in which we must see ourselves truly reflected if we are to die with dignity and without regrets.”
  • Brought back into popularity in the Harry Potter movies, the Elderwand was one of the three Hallows and featured throughout the series.  Elder wands were used to drive out evil spirits and thought forms.

The elder has so many health giving and functional qualities.  All parts of the tree can be used –  the leaves, bark, blossoms, berries, and roots.

  • Wood: Made into skewers, needles, combs, instruments, whistles and witches brooms!
  • Leaves: Used as an insect repellent
  • Bark: Used as a purgative and to make ointments
  • Root: Made into a tea to remedy dropsy/odema (swelling due to fluid build up)
  • Flowers: High in vitamin-C, has antiseptic properties.  A floral infusion soothes inflammation,  fades freckles, and is good for the complexion.  Tea is an old remedy for influenza; as a daily tonic for blood purification; treats nasal and sinus ailments and hayfever; and promotes sleep.    Ointment helps to heal burns;  elderflower vinegar is good for sore throats.   Make fritters, wine, cordial.
  • Berries: Has anti-viral properties.    Alleviates sciatic pains.   Helps with colds.   Known for using as a laxative.  Make wines, port, and liquors (black sambucca which Bruce does in the Autumn) and jams, jellies, chutneys, sauces and pies.

Elder Flower Fritters

Thank you ever-giving elder for all your abundance!

I honor the energy of Elder, which sees the end from the beginning.  Throughout many lifetimes, I have been here.  I have the knowledge that I have changed myself again and again.  I will start from where I am now, and continue to persist in my path.  I will succeed. So mote it be.  (From


Herbs for All Seasons by Rosemary Hemphill (1972)

The Rodale Herb Book (1974)

Herbal Healers by Glennie Kindred (1999)

Wild Drugs: A Forager’s Guide to Healing Plants by Zoe Hawes (2010)

Wisdom of the Trees Oracle Cards by Jane Struthers

Harry Potter Wiki