Following on from my recent post about Elder, here’s how to make Elderflower tea.
It is very easy to make fresh Elderflower tea and there should be some Elder close to your home. When the shrub is in full bloom (May/June here in Western Europe) and on a warm dry day find an Elder away from polluting roads. Check you like the smell of the flowers, the scent of Elderflower varies from shrub to shrub and it is not always fragrant! Ask permission of the plant, in some way, to harvest flowers. Most countries have lots of folk lore about being especially respectful of the Elder and if you are not of the superstitious kind then do remember that Elder berries are important to wildlife later in the year – less flowers, less berries.
Select only healthy looking flower heads (umbels) which have creamy-yellow stamens as shown in the photo. Pick them carefully as they are very easily damaged, I tend to collect them into a paper bag to avoid squashing the umbels on the way home.
Don’t wash the umbels before use but do snip off any thick stemy parts and shake off any insects and unwanted bits. If possible return the insects and bits to the plant soon afterwards. After gently shaking, it helps to lay the umbels on some white paper for a few minutes. The tiny insects then tend to crawl out or at least may be easily spotted and removed.
Use one or two big umbels per cup of tea. You can use the actual flowers alone (although its a bit fiddly to separate them when fresh) or the entire umbels. I simply place whole umbels (sort of folded up) in a small tea pot, add boiled water, cover and infuse or 5 – 10 minutes. If making it in a cup, do cover with a saucer whilst it infuses.
If you would like to harvest Elder flowers to dry and store then collect them just before the shrubs are in full bloom (May/June). Harvest as above, lay out on paper to dry in a warm, well ventilated place. When thoroughly dry the little flowers can be rubbed off the umbels and stored in jam jars, in a dark place, for up to a year. You would use about 1 heaped teaspoon of dried herb per cup of tea.
It is well worth keeping some dried Elderflower in stock over the cold and flu months. Herbals generally recommend that it is freely taken for a few days during a cold or flu (up to 8 cups daily) and up to a few cups per day at other times. Refer to the post about Elder for a little more information about the properties and uses of this wonderful plant.