The creamy white flowers heads of the elder tree appear in May and June. For many people their smell is sweet and heady but for others it is reminisent of cats' wee. If you are lucky enough to fall into the first group then elderflowers can be used to make a range of delicious sweet treats from elderflower biscuits to the fabulous elderflower delight (see our blog on Elderflowers). Elderflower wine and fizz are also very popular, and it is easy to make your own elderflower cordial.
Elderberry wine is familiar to many of us and has been made for centuries in homes across the country. The berries are highly nutritious with very high levels of vitamin C - homemade elderberry syrup is great for treating coughs and colds. They must be cooked prior to eating and are definitely on the sharp side so add some sugar or honey when you cook them.
The elder tree itself is a common tree of hedgerows and gardens. Easily identified by the shape of its leaves and the warty, ridged stems, the leaves are pinnate - the main leaf is made up of a central stem with mini leaflets along it. Surprisingly, despite both the flowers and the berries being edible the leaves and stems are toxic and should not be eaten.