Not all artists swoon over elderflowers. Shakespeare did call them ‘the stinking Elder.’ But to many, the little white flowers that precede the fat purple berry bunches smell heavenly. In Victorian floral messaging, the elderflower was said to represent compassion, kindness, humility or zealousness.
17th Century Dutch still-life painters often included elderflowers – or vlierbloesem – in their paintings.
Ambrosius Bosschaert The Elder. 1614
Jan Brueghel the Elder. 1606-1607
Rachel Ruysch. 1685
Even those who don’t revel in the strong fragrance or delicate blossoms of the elderflower can appreciate its bright flavour.
‘Elder flowers and Elder berries have long been used in the English countryside,’ wrote Sophie Emma Magdalene – or ‘Maud’ – Grieve in her 1931 A Modern Herbal. ‘The berries make an excellent wine and winter cordial, which improves with age, and taken hot with sugar, just before bed, is an old-fashioned and well-established cure for a cold.’
Elderflower liqueur is used in a wide range of cocktails: martinis, spritzers, apple and gin cocktails, scotch sodas. Local distillery Odd Society Spirits has just released a limited edition Elderflower liqueur – 150 bottles available at 375 ml. ‘Odd Society Elderflower Liqueur began life as freshly harvested, B.C. grown elderflowers, which are steeped within hours of picking.’
Their liqueur has ‘a a rich, sweet, floral taste with tropical and citrus notes.’ It sounds like they’ll be selling it at their own bottle shop and farmers’ markets until it’s gone!
Written by Elizabeth Newton