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The Wild World of Elderflowers: My Guide to Growing, Harvesting, and Brewing Nature's Tea

Updated: Mar 6

Welcome to the whimsical world of elderflowers, my all-time favorite! As a mom, navigating the landscape of nurturing plants while raising little humans can be quite an adventure. But fear not, fellow green thumbs and multitasking parents knee-deep in chaos, for today, we embark on a journey into the enchanting realm of elderflowers. From planting the seeds of knowledge to brewing a cup of floral goodness, join me in uncovering the magic of these delicate blossoms.

Growing Your Organic Elderflowers

Picture this: a garden teeming with lush greenery, buzzing with life, and crowned with clusters of fragrant elderflowers. There is something sweet in the air like honey, a sudden fragrance signaling summer. The first step on our herbal escapade is planting the seeds of our botanical dreams. Elderflowers bloom from the elderberry bush. They thrive in well-drained soil and partial sunlight, making them the perfect addition to any backyard oasis. I prefer starting from cuttings rather than seed, but if you're yearning to handcraft from seed then go for it! Just remember to give these beauties plenty of love and attention as they gro

As a herbalist mom, I've learned the importance of patience and perseverance in nurturing my garden. From battling pesky pests to weathering unpredictable seasons (or my boy's backyard Nerf wars), tending to elderflowers requires a delicate balance of care and determination. But fear not, fellow green thumbs, for the rewards of a bountiful harvest are well worth the effort.

When to Harvest

Freshly harvested elderflowers in a bowl

Ah, the sweet anticipation of harvest season! Here in Long Island, NY, we are in zone 7 for planting. The precious elderflowers begin to reach their peak ripeness, weather-depending, end of May. This also depends on your elderberry bush variety. My Samdal and Samyl Denmark variety bushes produced flowers earlier in the season than my American variety Nova, which blossoms a month later. This helped tremendously with time management as a busy mom and other crops that needed harvesting more urgently.

Elderflowers growing on a bush

I harvested the flowers only during the first spring of my elderberry bushes years back. This allowed the plant to put more energy back into the roots and branch growth. I let a single cluster keep on growing, and I got only ONE measly berry! Sigh, those pesky birds were much quicker than this tired mom was that year. Anyways, the flowers signal the perfect time to pluck them from the stem. Keep a keen eye out for clusters (also known as umbels) of creamy white blossoms, their intoxicating aroma fills the air with promises of herbal delights.

But beware, dear friends, for timing is of the essence when it comes to harvesting elderflowers. Wait too long, and you risk missing the window of opportunity as the blooms transition into elderberries. If you Act too soon, you may find yourself with underdeveloped flowers lacking in flavor and potency, and the most important of all, the pollen! You can see the elderflowers in the photo I took of them in the backyard, there are some beautiful clusters and underdeveloped elderflower 'balls' waiting to ripen.

So, when is the optimal moment to harvest these floral treasures, you ask? Well, my fellow herbalists, it all comes down to intuition and observation depending upon your zone. Trust your instincts, listen to the whispers of nature, and you'll know precisely when the time is right to gather your elderflowers for their medicinal magic. You will gain experience over the years.

Once harvested I lay the umbels lying flat carefully, this allows for little pests to 'exit' the flowers. Placing the umbels on a white plate is best, you will see the little buggers running off and escaping! Kinda gross right!? Have no fear, they are not present once dried!

You can freeze fresh umbels whole in your freezer, large Ziploc bags work great for this.

Preserving elderflowers long term you will need to dry out the flowers. You may either place them down on a plate in a well-ventilated area until dry, (turning every day) or hang them from a string in your kitchen. I personally do not recommend using a dehydrator for elderflowers unless you have extra net-like tops for each dehydrator tray to weigh down the umbels. These delicate flowers tend to 'blow away' inside some dehydrators like my Excalibur, lesson learned! I prefer to hang dry up on my pantry ceiling on thin rope now, and I can see their beauty every day passing by. After about a week your elderflowers should be dry, and the delicate flowers should be easy to pinch off. I store umbels whole in a few large airtight glass Fido jars, pinching flowers off when ready to use. Pinching off thousands of tiny flowers from 20 lbs or more is way too tedious for my personality and time constraints! Life is all about balance my friends!

Medicinal Benefits

Fresh elderflowers next to a bowl of honey infusing in elderflowers

Now, onto the juicy bits – the medicinal benefits of these intoxicating elderflowers! As a herbalist mom, I've long been enchanted by the healing properties of these delicate blooms. From soothing sore throats to boosting immunity, elderflowers are nature's remedy for a wide range of ailments. The least known yet most powerful benefit is their ability to reduce fevers. Elderflowers contain compounds that encourage the body to sweat, a natural process that helps cool the body and reduce fever. This diaphoretic action is crucial for helping to break fevers by facilitating the release of heat from the body, promoting a natural way to lower body temperature. Mix with peppermint tea and you have an extremely powerful cold and flu remedy, even stronger than elderberry syrup. Mind blown right?

Rich in antioxidants and anti-inflammatory compounds, elderflowers possess remarkable healing powers that have been cherished for centuries. Whether brewed into a tea or infused into a tincture, these floral wonders offer relief for everything from colds and flu to allergies and digestive issues.

Brewing Elderflower Tea

Ah, the pièce de résistance – brewing elderflower tea! As an herbalist mom, there's nothing quite like the satisfaction of crafting a soothing potion from nature's bounty. To begin our alchemical adventure, gather a handful of freshly harvested elderflowers, ensuring they're free from dirt and debris.

Next, gently rinse the blossoms under cool water, being careful not to bruise or damage their delicate petals. Once cleaned, place the elderflowers in a teapot or heatproof vessel and cover them with freshly boiled water. Allow the blooms to steep for 5-10 minutes, allowing their essence to infuse into the liquid.

As the tea brews, take a moment to inhale the fragrant aroma wafting from the pot, letting it transport you to a state of calm and tranquility. When the time steeping time is done, strain the tea into your favorite mug, perhaps adding a drizzle of honey for a touch of sweetness.

And there you have it – a steaming cup of elderflower tea, brewed with love and intention. Sip slowly, savoring each sip as it warms your body and nourishes your soul.

There are so many ways to use elderflowers, don't stop at just a warm cup of herbal goodness! Make an elderflower syrup, cordial, liqueur, or elderflower wine! Other culinary uses for these amazing flowers would be sorbet, infused oil, or infused vinegar to name a few. There are also many cosmetic uses you may enjoy adding to your self-care routine, elderflower facial toner anyone?

Being a Herbalist Mom

Now, let's address the elephant in the room – being an herbalist mom ain't always a walk in the park. I will be forever learning until my last breath on this amazing flat planet (Ha, just kidding, maybe!) Balancing the demands of parenthood with the joys of herbalism can be a juggling act worthy of the circus ring. From middle-of-the-night callings to early morning herb harvests, and garden prep even in winter, the life of an herbalist mom is nothing if not adventurous. But amidst the chaos and the clutter, there's a beauty to be found in the intersection of these two worlds. As we nurture our gardens and our children alike, we're instilling in them a deep reverence for the natural world and a profound appreciation for the healing power of plants.

So, to all the herbalist moms out there, I raise my teacup to you. May your gardens flourish, your children thrive, and your cups of elderflower tea always be brimming with love and laughter.

And so, dear readers, we end our herbal odyssey through the wild world of elderflowers. From planting the seeds of knowledge to brewing a cup of floral goodness, we've explored the magic and wonder of these delicate blossoms.

I've learned that the greatest lessons often come from the simplest of pleasures – a walk in the garden, a warm embrace, a steaming cup of elderflower tea. So, take a moment to pause, to breathe, and to savor the sweetness of life's little miracles.

Until next time, happy gardening, happy parenting, and happy brewing!

With love and laughter,

Sweet T

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