Elderflowers are commonly used to flavour a variety of drinks and desserts, particularly in the UK. These delicate little flowers can be easily harvested but once you have picked your crop, you may be left wondering what to do with them. If you have many more flowers than you currently need, one of the most important things to consider is how you will preserve them. You can freeze a lot of things to increase lifespan but can you freeze elderflowers? Yes, it is possible to freeze elderflowers and there are a few ways you can do this. Many people will make ice cubes and use them in teas or soft drinks and others will freeze them after vacuum packing. Getting it right might take a little trial and error but provided that you follow the best practices, you’ll likely have a lovely store of delicately flavoured elderflower ice cubes for those summer tea parties and family gatherings.
How to Harvest Elderflowers?
Harvesting your elderflowers in the right way is an important step as they are very delicate and can spoil easily.
1 – Timing is Key
The optimal time to harvest elderflowers in the UK is around mid-June, marking the transition from spring to summer.
2 – Choose the Right Time of Day
Harvest the flowers during the cooler parts of the day for the best results.
3 – Prepare Your Collection Container
Use a breathable container, such as a mesh bag, for collecting elderflowers.
4 – Harvesting Process
- Gently pick the elderflowers, ensuring you don’t damage them.
- Look for clusters that are fully open and free from browning.
- Use scissors or garden shears to snip the flower clusters just below the point where all the small stems meet.
- Shake each cluster gently to dislodge any insects or debris before placing them in your container.
5 – Post-Harvest Care
After harvesting, keep the elderflowers out of direct sunlight to maintain their freshness – use or store them appropriately within 24 hours.
- If you’re interested in collecting elderberries, wait until mid-August when the flowers transform into dark purple fruits.
- Avoid using airtight containers for storing freshly picked elderflowers. They can cause the flowers to wilt and turn brown quickly.
- Always handle elderflowers with care to prevent them from getting damaged or bruised.
How to Store Elderflowers
Elderflowers won’t last well as they are so it is important to get them home and either use them quickly or store them as soon as possible. The 2 main ways to store elderflowers are to freeze them or to dry them.
How to Freeze Elderflowers in Cordial
Elderflower cordial is best made 24 hours before you make your elderflower cordial ice cubes so it has time to infuse.
What You Need
- Elderflower cordial
- Ice cube tray
- Plastic Freezer Bags
1 – Preparation
- Mixing: Before you begin, give the elderflower cordial a good stir or shake and add 200ml of water to 500ml of cordial. This helps to result in consistent flavour in each ice cube.
- Tray Cleaning: Ensure the ice cube tray is clean and free from any residues or odours. Rinse it with cold water and let it air dry.
2 – Filling the Tray
- Adding a Flower: Add a fresh flower to each of the compartments of the ice cube tray. These won’t add any additional flavour to the ice but they look great.
- Pouring Technique: Slowly pour the elderflower cordial into each compartment of the ice cube tray. This minimises the formation of bubbles and ensures a clear ice cube.
- Fill Level: Fill each compartment nearly to the top, but leave a little space to allow for expansion as the liquid freezes.
After pouring, I have learned that if you give the tray some very small taps with the back of a spoon or something to help bring as many air bubbles as possible to the top.
3 – Freezing
- Placement: Place the ice cube tray on a flat surface in the freezer to ensure even freezing.
- Duration: Allow the cordial to freeze solidly. This typically takes several hours, but for best results, leave it overnight.
4 – Storage
- Quick Transfer: Once the elderflower cordial cubes are fully frozen, work quickly to remove them from the tray to prevent them from melting.
- Storing Method: Transfer the frozen cubes to an airtight container or sealable freezer bag. This protects the cubes from absorbing any unwanted odours from the freezer.
- Labelling: Clearly label the container or bag with the date of freezing and the contents. This helps in identifying them later and tracking their freshness.
- Enhanced Beverages: These elderflower cordial ice cubes are a delightful addition to various drinks. As they melt, they infuse the beverage with the sweet and aromatic flavour of elderflower. They are perfect for:
- Cold Teas: Add a cube to your iced tea for a floral twist.
- Sparkling Water: Turn regular sparkling water into a refreshing elderflower spritzer.
- Cocktails: Elevate your cocktails with a hint of elderflower.
- Lemonades: Give your lemonade a fragrant boost.
How to Make Classy Elderflower Ice Cubes
If you want to have really classy-looking ice cubes, you can but note, that these will not have the flavour of the infused flower.
What You Need
- Fresh Elderflowers
- Ice Cube Tray
- Clean Water
- Cocktail Stick
1 – Prep
- Harvest: Harvest and gently clean the elderflowers.
- Boil the Water: Boil the kettle.
2 – Fill the Ice Cube Tray
- Pouring: Slowly pour the boiling water straight into the ice cube tray. Using boiling water ensures crystal-clear ice cubes.
- Fill Level: Fill each compartment nearly to the top, but leave a little space to allow for the flower and expansion as the liquid freezes.
3 – Add the Flower
- Placing: Place elderflower clusters or florets onto each compartment of the tray.
- Pressing the Flower: Press the flower into the boiling water so that it is fully submerged, it is best to use a cocktail stick for this to prevent burning your fingers.
4 – Freezing
- Freeze: Immediately put the ice cube tray in the freezer and freeze until solid.
- Store: Transfer to a labelled freezer bag or container for storage.
These ice cubes can be added to various beverages for a classy aesthetic appeal but they will not add much flavour!
How to Freeze Elderflowers in Vacuum Sealed Bags
Vacuum sealing your elderflowers is a great way to keep them fresh and in good condition for longer.
What You Need
- Fresh elderflowers
- Vacuum sealer
- Vacuum seal bags
1 – Preparation
- Harvesting: Choose elderflowers that are in full bloom, ensuring they are free from blemishes and pests.
- Cleaning: Gently rinse the elderflowers under cold water to remove any dirt or insects. Lay them out on a clean towel and pat them gently to remove excess water.
- Drying: It’s crucial to let the elderflowers air dry completely. Any moisture left can lead to ice crystals forming inside the vacuum bag, which can affect the texture and flavour of the elderflowers when defrosted.
2 – Packing
Spread out the elderflowers in the vacuum seal bags. Ensure they are not clumped together, which allows for even freezing and prevents the flowers from sticking together.
3 – Sealing
Using the vacuum sealer, extract all the air from the bag. This process ensures that the elderflowers are preserved in a near-perfect environment, free from air and moisture, which can degrade their quality over time.
3 – Freezing
Before placing the vacuum-sealed bags in the freezer, label them with the date of freezing. This helps in tracking their freshness and ensures you use older stocks first. Lay the bags flat in the freezer to allow for even freezing.
Preservation of Freshness: Vacuum sealing removes air, which is a primary cause of freezer burn. Freezer burn can degrade the texture and flavour of foods. By vacuum sealing, the elderflowers retain their fresh taste and aroma for a longer period.
Extended Shelf Life: Vacuum-sealed elderflowers can be stored in the freezer for several months, if not longer, without a significant loss in quality. This method extends their shelf life compared to other freezing methods.
Space Efficiency: Vacuum-sealed bags are flat and stackable, making them space-efficient in the freezer.
Protection from External Flavours: The airtight environment of a vacuum-sealed bag protects the elderflowers from absorbing unwanted flavours or odours from other items in the freezer.
How to Dry Elderflowers
Drying elderflowers is a great way to preserve their delicate aroma and flavour for use throughout the year. Here’s a step-by-step guide on how to do it:
What You Need
- Fresh elderflowers
- Clean cloth or paper towels
- Drying rack or screen
- A well-ventilated, dark, and dry space
- Airtight containers or sealable plastic bags for storage
1 – Harvesting and Preparation
- Selection: Choose elderflowers that are in full bloom, ensuring they are free from blemishes, pests, and any signs of mould.
- Cleaning: Gently shake each elderflower cluster to remove any insects or debris. If necessary, lightly rinse the elderflowers under cold water to remove any dirt.
- Drying: Lay the elderflowers on a clean cloth or paper towel and pat them gently to remove excess water. Allow them to air dry for a short while to ensure no moisture remains.
2 – Arrange the Flowers for Drying
- Drying Rack/Screen: Spread the elderflowers in a single layer on a drying rack or screen. Ensure they are not overlapping, which allows for even air circulation and drying.
- Location: Place the drying rack in a well-ventilated area, away from direct sunlight. Direct sunlight can degrade the colour and aroma of elderflowers. A dark, dry, and cool room or space is ideal.
3 – Drying Process
- Duration: Allow the elderflowers to dry naturally for several days. The exact time will depend on the humidity and temperature of the drying area.
- Checking: Turn the elderflowers occasionally to ensure even drying. They are fully dried when the stems snap easily, and the flowers crumble between your fingers.
4 – Storage
- Preparation: Once the elderflowers are completely dry, gently remove the tiny flowers from the larger stems. The stems can be discarded.
- Containers: Transfer the dried elderflowers to airtight containers or sealable plastic bags. This will protect them from moisture and preserve their aroma.
- Labelling: Label the containers with the date and contents for easy identification.
- Location: Store the containers in a cool, dark, and dry place.
Drying elderflowers in an area with good air circulation will speed up the drying process.
Always ensure that the elderflowers are completely dry before storing them to prevent mould growth.
Dried elderflowers can be used in teas, baked goods, or homemade cosmetics.
Elderflowers have a beautiful floral flavour that is quite unlike anything else. As a result of this, they can add something extra special to a variety of drinks and desserts. The problem is that these flowers are so delicate that storing them can be a problem. While it is possible to dry them, many people find that freezing is a better option. However, if you are going to do this, it is imperative that you keep the elderflowers in an ice cube otherwise you may find that they go brown very quickly.
Garden Doctor Tips
“Elderflowers can be frozen if they are vacuum-packed first!”
“Elderflower ice cubes are not only tasty but they look great too!”
“Be very careful with your Elderflowers, they are extremely delicate!”
“To preserve Elderflowers for later use, it is best to dry them rather than freeze them!”
Frequently Asked Questions
How do you preserve Elderflowers?
Elderflowers do not do well frozen unless they are frozen in ice cubes. To preserve elderflowers, it is best to gently wash them and then hang them upside down to dry.
What do you do with wild Elderflowers?
Elderflowers are popular in making champagne and wine but also make a great cordial which can be diluted with water or mixed with sparkling water to make a refreshing summer drink.
How long does elderflower wine keep?
Home-made Elderflower wine can be kept for approximately 18 months if stored correctly in a cool dry place.
Trevor Wright is not just a seasoned horticulturist; he’s the esteemed Garden Doctor. With a BSc in Horticulture and years of hands-on experience in the soil, Trevor has become a trusted mentor for all things gardening. As the founder of Garden Doctor, he’s committed to clarifying the intricacies of gardening, offering straightforward advice that’s rooted in years of practice. His writing is a garden of how-tos, savvy insights, and comprehensive guides that enable individuals to nurture and grow their garden dreams. When he’s not knee-deep in garden beds, Trevor is at his keyboard passing on his green-thumbed wisdom to budding gardeners, ensuring that the legacy of sustainable and joyful gardening blossoms far and wide.