Time works in strange and contradictory ways. Every year it seems as though we are waiting and waiting for summer to arrive. And yet the elderflowers seem to be in bloom far more often than once a year.


And it’s that time again now! When as I pass the door into the garden I catch a whiff of that creamy, lemony smell of the elder tree dipping down over the wall next to where I park my car. It’s unavoidable. And it means that every year I am stricken with guilt unless I do something constructive with them.


One year I made elderflower champagne, but the bottles exploded, and I haven’t been brave enough to try again. Several years I’ve made a batter and fried the flowers in it, then dusted them with sugar to make elderflower fritters – but it’s only Steve and me who’ll eat them. The children are most unimpressed, and turn up their noses.


This year, though, I’ve returned to that old favourite – it works for everyone, and doesn’t make stepping into the cold room feel like entering a war zone – elderflower cordial.


Together my daughter and I snipped about 15 heads of elderflower, and used this recipe:


1.5kg granulated sugar

50g citric acid (available from the chemist’s in a very medical-looking box that says ‘for culinary use’ on it)

3 limes ( a change from our usual lemons)

900ml water

15 heads of elderflower


Simmer the sugar and water together until the sugar is completely dissolved, then bring it to the boil, covered. Once it’s boiled, remove it from the heat, then drop in your carefully washed elderflowers, peeled and sliced limes (together with the peel), and citric acid, and stir. Leave, covered, to steep for 24 hours, then strain through a colander lined with a tea-towel into sterilised bottles.


Dilute the cordial when drinking – we love it with fizzy water best, and you’ll find the flavour is astonishingly strong. A proper taste of summer.sugarwelcoming garden gate