Never one to miss the opportunity to take advantage of something free, and seasonal, I will be selecting the finest flowery heads from the elderflowers this week to make a refreshing cordial.
The creamy-white flowers of the elder tree appear in abundance in hedgerows, scrub, woodlands and wasteland at this time of year.
The flower heads are best picked when they are just beginning to open with some buds still closed on a warm dry day - their perfume should be noticeable as you are picking them.
Elderflower cordial only takes 10 minutes to make and it's well worth the effort. It's a real taste of summer and also incredibly versatile - add a splash to fruit salad (especially one with gooseberries), make some jelly with it or combine it with soda water, or even prosescco, for a delicious, summery drink.
My elderflower cordial
25 Elderflower heads
3 unwaxed lemons
1 heaped tsp citric acid. This is an optional extra. It acts as a preservative, meaning you can keep the cordial for longer as it stops it fermenting
How you make it
1 Inspect the elderflower heads to make sure insect free then place in a large bowl with the orange and lemon zest.
2 Bring the water to the boil and pour over the elderflowers and zest. Cover and leave to infuse overnight.
3 Strain the liquid through some muslin into a saucepan, add sugar plus the lemon and orange juice and the citric acid if required. Heat gently until the sugar is dissolved then simmer for a couple of minutes.
4 Pour into sterilised bottles and seal.
More commonly known as granny’s bonnets or common columbine, aquilegias vulgaris are a clump-forming herbaceous perennial that traditional grow in our meadows and woodlands.
Aquila comes from the Latin word for eagle and the flower acquired its name because of the shape of the petals that are said to resemble the bird's outspread wings.
Aquilegias prefer a fertile, moist soil in partial shade but have a long tap root so are quite drought-tolerant. This time of year they are invaluable flowers for adding early colour to your borders.
They grow to an ultimate height of just over one metre but make sure you give them a good prune after flowering for fresh foliage to appear.