The Elder is a common sight in the countryside and are unprepossessing shrubs or small trees. The creamy clusters of star-like flowers carried in spring and summer have a musky scent. They can be used to brew elderflower ‘champagne’ and ‘wine’, make delicious cordials and flavour desserts. A healing tisane can also be made from the flowers. Pick flowers early on a dewless morning, spread the heads on clean kitchen paper and leave in a warm, dark, dry place for several days. Elder flowers are high in Vitamins A and C.
The European variety is a multi stemmed shrub tree with deep green compound leaves. The large lacy inflorescences bear tiny creamy white fragrant flowers. The leaves, bark, green berries and roots are poisonous if consumed. These cold hardy plants prefer a moist but well drained humus rich soil and full sun to partial shade.
In autumn the berries of the common elder can be used to make wine. They are the nutritional equal of grapes and must be harvested when black. Freeze the berries if you want to but you must cook them first before using them in baked goods. They are also used to produce an essential oil used in perfumery.