It is that time of year again. The mosquitos are back on the floodplain, and so are the flowers on the elderberry plants (Sambucus cerulea). A couple of days ago, I picked as many clusters as I could manage before the mosquito bites became intolerable. We made jam of the berries last fall, but I must admit that the juice from the flowers is my favorite. It is very popular in Europe, especially Scandinavia and Central Europe, but it has yet to be discovered and appreciated in the United States. While the elderberry plant has a number of medicinal properties and may alleviate allergies and improve respiratory health, it is the unique taste that draws me.
Elderflowers on the floodplain on MPG Ranch. Photo: Jeff Clarke
Making the juice, or cordial as it is called, is easy. Because the stems and leaves are toxic, most of those parts should be removed before infusing the flowers in syrup. I highly recommend adding a pinch of citric acid and a couple of cut lemons for flavor and tartness. After a couple of days in the refrigerator, this concentrate can be mixed with water to quench the thirst, or added to gin for a tasty martini. Regardless of which, I store it frozen until I need to be reminded of summer during the long winters of Montana.
Our two interns Mariana Satterly and Tanner Humphries enjoying (non-alcoholic!) elderflower juice. Photo: Ylva Lekberg