Early on a sunny day is a good time to pick elderflowers, as they are fresher and juicer, before the sun frazzles them throughout the day. Having said that I often used to pick them on the way home from a day at work and still made wonderfully scented cordials, so not sure it matters too much. Having recently moved I am still seeking good spots to pick my favourite hedgerow treats. I recently noticed a huge elderflower tree nearby and have taken advantage..!
Fortuitously a more prepared forager had already beaten a track through the brambles and nettles so I could reach the tree relatively unscathed in my shorts and sandals. Here are some photos of what to look for if you’re a first time elderflower hunter. The flowers are creamy white, face the sky from the bush or tree and smell distinctive, sometimes with a slight urine hint to the bouquet, not as bad as it sounds, really. Also notice the shape of the leaves and the rough bark. Not to be confused with similar looking hedgerow plants such as cow parsley.
The recipes for Elderflower Cordial and Champagne are from ‘The Preserving Book’ by Lynda Brown (publisher Dorling Kindersley), and have worked well for me, although the yields are inaccurate – recipes make more, not sure how they expect 8 litres of water to reduce to 4 litres..?