Recipé for elderflower fritters

On this page: If you live in the country, this is a fun thing to do in late May or early June (northern hemisphere).

elder bush in flowerElder trees (Sambucus niger) grow in poor soil, and are usually found in overgrown hedgerows and scrubby land. They are distinguished by their pinnate leaves with a rather rank smell, corky bark, and broad panicles of foamy white flowers with a delicious muscat perfume.

Go out first thing on a dry still day and carefully collect some elderflower heads when they are in full bloom, and carry them gently home, so as not to lose the pollen, which contributes a lot to the taste of this recipé. (I've seen people gathering them by busy roadsides, but can't recommend this for obvious reasons.)

Make some thickish pancake batter (no link for this - go and look in a cookery book if you need to!) and leave it to stand for half an hour in a wide shallow dish. Meanwhile, remove any insects from the flowers (or not if you aren't squeamish).

Holding the stalk of a head of flowers, dip the flowers in the batter, and immediately fry in hot oil. When lightly browned on the underside, remove from the pan and snip off all the stalks. Fry the other side for a minute or two and serve hot with a squeeze of lemon juice and a sprinkle of sugar.

Tip: If you can't be bothered to trim the stalks, just fry a little longer on the first side. But it's worth the effort to avoid soggy batter in the middle, as well as easier to eat!

Other things to do with elderflowers

The scent goes very well with gooseberries: try infusing a flowerhead in stewed fruit; and of course, there is elderflower cordial and champagne, for which there are numerous recipés for these on the web. I love the champagne - but have memories of my dad's brewing when I was a child. He made it in screw-top cider flagons, and sometimes, one would explode and send shards of glass flying across the garage! No health and safety worries in those days!