How to identify elderflower and what to do with it

elder flower flower head

Tastes great and it grows on trees!


Elderflower is the smell of summer for me.  From cordial to fizz to ice cream and jam, there is an immense array of goodies to be made with these dainty scented flowers.  In this blog post, we’ll let you know about the appearance of elderflower and when to pick them as well as what to make with elderflower.

elderflower drink

Before you forage

  • Always make sure you can positively identify the plant
  • Seek permission before foraging
  • Only pick from areas that have a plentiful supply
  • Leave enough for wildlife


Elderflower is usually found near wasteland, railways, woodlands and designated park areas.  The beautiful scent and clustered blossoms will surely grab your attention (they look a bit like popcorn to me! – Mr Foodie).

elderflower bush

elder flower flower head

When to and how to pick elderflowers

Look out for elderflower from late May to mid-July, (this depends on where you live of course!). Once picked, try and use the flowers as soon as you can.  The flowers lose their gorgeous scent soon after picking and overtime they smell more like cat pee! (this is normal so don’t throw them out, they can still be used)

Using a pair of sharp scissors, remove flower heads just below where all the small stems meet the main stem. Remember to gather only a few flower heads from each tree to keep the insects happy.  An old carrier bag is the best way to carry your haul, the smell of the flowers can linger.

Something to be wary of

Elderflower should be cooked before use as it is mildly toxic and can make you sick so don’t eat it raw. In our recipes we boil the flowers first.

elderflower cordial bottled

What to make with elderflowers

We made two recipes this year.  Elderflower cordial and elderflower fizz. The cordial is really thick and sweet so should be drunk diluted.

Top tip 1 – you can also add it to cheap or very dry white wine to sweeten it up.

Top tip 2 – Drizzle over fresh strawberries to turn the fruit into more of a dessert.

Elderflowers can also be added to fruit tarts, crumbles or fried in a light batter (yes, really!).



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I am Emma and with my husband Mark write Foodie Explorers, which is a food and travel website.

I am a member of the Guild of Food Writers and British Guild of Travel Writers.

We have a wide range of judging experience covering products, hotels and have judged, for example, for Great Taste Awards and Scottish Baker of the Year.

Along the way Mark gained WSET Level 2 in Wine and I have WSET Level 2 in Spirits as well as picking up an award with The Scotsman Food and Drink Awards.    

Usually I can be found sleeping beside a cat.

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