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?
If you try to freeze elderflowers as they are, you will likely be disappointed with the results. However, it is entirely possible to freeze the flowers in ice cubes as a viable way of preserving them. Many people will do this and later use the ice cubes in teas or soft drinks.
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
Before you can freeze any elderflowers, you will first need to harvest them. The good news is that, in the UK, there is an ample supply of these tiny, delicate flowers. The best time of year to harvest the flowers is around the middle of June, just as spring is turning into summer.
However, if you want berries, you will need to wait until the middle of August when the flowers undergo a magical transformation into these dark purple fruits.
If you are going to harvest the flowers, you will need to also consider the time of day that you pick them. Picking these flowers during a cooler part of the day will yield the best results and once you have collected them, be sure to keep them out of direct sunlight.
How you collect your elderflowers is also something worth thinking about. The best option is to head out with a breathable container; something like a mesh bag will work well. If you store them in an airtight container, the flowers will quickly wilt and turn brown, rendering them useless before you have even begun.
How to Store Elderflowers
Elderflowers are incredibly delicate and should be treated with extreme care. Once removed from the tree or shrub, the flowers won’t last well so it is important to get them home and either use or store them correctly as soon as possible.
If you’re reading this article, you are probably keen to freeze your elderflowers and the good news is that this is something you can do. However, it is important not to attempt to freeze the flowers as they are.
If you do this, you will very quickly notice that they turn a miserable brown colour and the quality will deteriorate within as little as a few hours. This is because elderflowers are highly susceptible to freezer burn.
However, one of the best ways to freeze these delicate beauties is to pop them into the water and make elderflower ice cubes. But there is slightly more to it than that; let’s take a look at what you’ll need to do.
- Begin by rinsing the elderflowers. Of course, owing to their delicate nature, you will need to be gentle when doing this. Place them in a sieve and hold them under very slow running water. Before moving onto the next step, be sure to allow them to fully drain.
- Next you will need to make a batch of elderflower cordial. A great recipe for this can be found here. Although, we would recommend making this in advance since it will need to steep for 24 hours by which time, your other elderflowers may have diminished in quality.
- When your cordial is ready, you can add this to some water. Generally speaking, you will want to add 100ml of water to your syrup, but this depends on how many ice cubes you will make and how strong you want them to be.
- Pour the mixture into ice cube trays and add some tiny flowers into each one.
- You will now need to freeze the ice cubes for around four hours.
Once they are ready, your elderflower ice cubes can be used in a variety of drinks from herbal teas to lemonade or even add a floral twist to a cool glass of water. However, a lot of people like to use them to flavour gin which, in recent years, has become one of the most well-loved tipples in the UK.
When enjoying with gin, you will typically need around three average-sized ice cubes to get the best balance of flavour. In addition, you might wish to add a sprig of mint for a refreshing twist on this beautiful summery drink.
If you do not wish to freeze your elderflowers, it is also possible to dry them; in which case, they will keep much better. For this, you will need to take the bunches of flowers, known as umbels and place them on a screen to dry out over the course of several days.
Alternatively, you can hang them upside down and they will undergo the same drying process.
After the flowers have dried, the flowers can be stored in a paper bag but be sure to keep them in a cool, dry place until you are ready to use them. The great thing about drying the elderflowers is that they don’t tend to lose a lot of their colour, unlike some preservation methods.
Elderflowers can only be harvested once a year, so you may find yourself gathering as many as your can. However, as we have mentioned, they can deteriorate very quickly so finding a viable way to store them is essential.
If you want to use the elderflowers in cooking or to flavour teas, you could try making an elderflower syrup which can be added to a variety of things. What’s more, a syrup will keep for around six months when stored correctly so you will be able to benefit from the taste of elderflowers long after summer has ended.
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!”
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 will keep for approximately 18 months if stored correctly in a cool dry place.