A friend reminded me recently, that I used to have a butterfly wing flower press. My dad made it out of two bits of wood, painted yellow or light green, with four butterfly wing nuts and bolts to keep it together and layers of thick cardboard and parchment paper.
It looked something like this one. I used to love getting flowers and leaves to put in and press. A lot of times, though, we’d also collect flowers and leaves to use to make jams, jellies, syrups, and wine.
My favourite was picking the almost sickly sweet smelling Elderflowers and berries. The flowers were so dainty and beautiful and the berries so rich, dark, and sweet. My dad would make Elderflower wine and my mum would make Elderberry jam or jelly. We also picked rose hips, sloes, nettles, and dandelions.
There’s a lot of folklore around the Elderflower.
- One name for it is the Judas Tree, as it was thought to be the tree Judas Iscariot hanged himself from. It’s also believed that Christ’s cross was carved out of Elder wood.
- To fell a tree without suitable protection could free a spirit called the Elder Mother to take her revenge
- The Elder was said to be a protection against witches, and a knotted twig kept in the pocket was a charm against rheumatism
- An Elder tree grown near the door provides protection to the house and those within
- Elder trees were apparently never struck by lightning, and a cross of elder fastened above stables would protect the animals
- Elderflower cordials and elderberry wines are high in vitamins A, B and C
- In A Modern Herbal of 1931, Mrs Grieves recommends an elderflower infusion, taken hot before bed, as a remedy for colds and throat trouble
- Mrs Grieves also swears by elder leaves as an insect deterrent. The foul-smelling bruised leaves around tender plants and buds prevent attack by aphids and cater-pillars, and gardeners can add a sprig to their hatband to ward off midges
How to make Elderflower cordial
An easy one to make, it’s best consumed within two weeks, although it’ll keep for a month if bottled and can be frozen in plastic bottles (leave some space, as the liquid expands)
- 20 elderflower heads
- 2½ pints boiling water
- 3½lbs sugar
- 1 sliced lemon 2tsp
- Citric acid (available from the chemist)
Put all the dry ingredients into a clean pan and pour boiling water over them. Stir until sugar is dissolved. Skim off the surface. Cover with a cloth or lid. Stir twice daily for five days. Strain through a muslin and bottle.
How to make elderflower wine
- 1 pint elderflowers (destalked)
- 8 pints boiling water
- 3lbs sugar
- Juice of 1 lemon
- Grated rind of 1 lemon
- ½oz yeast
Add lemon rind to the elderflowers, pour boiling water over them and stand for four days, stirring occasionally. Strain through a fine sieve or muslin, then stir in sugar, lemon juice and yeast. Ferment at room temperature (not below 18˚C). When the bubbling has ceased, stir the wine and allow to settle for three days. Strain again carefully. Put in a demijohn to mature for three months, then bottle.