We live in a lovely rural spot, surrounded by trees and rambling nature and with a long unruly, higgedly piggedly garden. Nevertheless, one thing I’ve learned about myself over the years is that I’m not the rosy earth mother I once imagined, leisurely filling baskets of homegrown veg and potting jams with an army of children.
In reality, two lively kids, a growing homeopathy practice and work related projects, activities, housekeeping and trying to stem the advancing chaos of the garden while endeavouring to live in the place we live instead of spending our lives in the car, keeps me very busy, thank you very much!
I’ve given up trying to be superwoman, anything that gets done in the garden is a bonus but I just love to make time to step outside and appreciate the growing world, especially at this time of year. The air smells sweet, the birds sing and we’re all happier after a day outdoors pottering and playing.
This summer we managed to grow tasty cherry tomatoes, some peas and a decent amount of salad. We made some elderflower cordial when the elderflowers were in bloom and yesterday we seized the moment and made elderberry syrup.
We have two Elder trees in the garden so the picking is easy but it’s a common tree found all over the place in public parks and wilder places. If you are not used to looking for them they look like this:
Elderberries are very high in Vitamin C and Vitamin A, they are also high in quercitin (an anti-oxidant), are anti-inflammatory and possess anti viral properties that are known to treat colds and flu.
I use it as a tonic for heading into the winter – a tablespoon a day with breakfast. This is the recipe I use and usually I do 3 or 4 times the amount, which makes over a litre of syrup.
1 cup of fresh elderberries
3 cups of water
½ cup of honey local or best quality you can find (or whatever’s in the press!)
A long stick of cinnamon
Some sliced fresh ginger
A few cloves
One star anise - optional
Put the elderberries, water, cinnamon, ginger etc. into a saucepan and bring to the boil. Let it simmer for 30 minutes then take off the heat. Mash the berries to get all the juice and strain it all into a clean bowl. Once it has cooled a good bit add the honey. It will keep in the fridge for 1-2 months in a glass bottle with a good lid or for longer if you add some alcohol, a small amount of brandy/vodka will prolong it's life.
Elderberries can also be frozen in season to make another batch later in winter, or to discover much to your surprise in the spring when rooting in the freezer!