Monday, 1 June 2009


Elder Mother by Arthur Rackham

"Old girl, give me some of thy wood
and I will give thee some of mine
when I grow into a tree."

AND SO, in various parts of England and Scandinavia, a woodsman who wished to cut the Elder would ask of it, lest misfortune befall him.
The Elder is a tree thought in many old tales to harbour a spirit. In Northern Europe she is the Hylde-Moer, a death and fertility goddess. And since days of yore and before, folk have alternately revered and reviled the Elder as a witches' tree, a tree of magic, which must be respected.

The tree's name comes from the Anglo-Saxon word Æld meaning fire, because the hollow stems make excellent kindling, and indeed it also bears folk names such as "pipe-tree", since Elder twigs have long been used as blow-pipes by children.
Its negative associations come from a belief that Elder was the wood of the crucifix and/or the tree from which Judas hung himself. The Jew's Ear fungus which grows predominantly on the Elder is so named also because of the crucifixion associations (Judas' punishment was to forever hear folk whispering of his betrayal by having his ears grow on the tree of the cross).

The Elder appears in the conjurings of the Macbeth witches, and there abound tales of Elder Tree Witches trying to steal cow's milk or pinching black and blue a baby sleeping in a cradle made from Elder Wood...

"It were all along of my maister’s thick ‘ead. It were in this ‘ow't’ rocker comed off t'cradle, and he hadn’t no more gumption than to mak’ a new ‘un out on illerwood (elder wood) without axing the Old Lady’s leave, and in course she didn’t like that, and she came and pinched the wean that outrageous he were a’most black in t’ face; but I bashed un off, and putten an eshen on, and the wean is gallus as owt agin."

But above all the Elder is a tree to be used in cooking. Elderflower and Elderberry wine and cordial are probably the most well known and fragrent Elder-recipes, but alongside these, the plant has many many medicinal benefits and other more obscure culinary uses, one of which, since the Elder is just flowering, I decided to make today...


1. On a sunny day, pick a fair few flower heads, leaving long stalks.

2. Beat 1 egg in a bowl.

3. Add 250ml milk and stir.

4. Sift in 200g plain flour whilst stirring. Add a pinch of salt.

5. Dip flower heads into batter (after removing cobwebs and weevils).

6. Plunge battered flowers into a pan of smoking hot oil, a few inches deep, holding onto the stalks until the fritters have turned a golden brown.

7. Serve with a sprinkling of sugar, maple syrup or cinnamon.

For more information about Elder Lore, there's an excellent essay "By Standing Stone and Elden Tree" over at Hedgewychery.

There's more wild foodery and suchlike at Colour it Green where I found the fritter recipe.
And the fritters were delicious!


Heather said...

What a delightful feast - thanks for sharing the recipe with us. I am fascinated by herbal lore and am often reminded of how much knowledge we have lost in our eagerness to keep up with the times.

Anonymous said...

they do look good - and maple syrup sounds an excellent idea!

Komyo said...

This is very interesting Rima!
I didn´t know this tree is Elder in English. Fire is actually "eld" in Swedish. And the name of the tree is "fläder" in Swedish ("flaeder" kind of...) so I realised the phonetic similarities here. I had no idea about this!
The recipe looks soo interesting, I might have to try it out! The elder tree in my garden has just started flowering.

the dafthermits (Mel n andy and wee clan) said...

Hi Rima

hope you kept us a wee bit

signal gone wonky after i said it was ok, trust me to speak to soon

love the pictures

lots of love to you both

your highland hermit friends

dylan says woof Tui xx

Karen said...

They look delicious! :)

Sarah said...

These look yummy! It's not many recipes that tell you to remove cobwebs and weevils first either!
Our neighbour had a lovely elder tree but sadly chopped it down last year. I will have to look further afield.

Chris.P said...

Hi Rima
My wife ans I always gather Elderflowers from a spot at the bottom of a sacred hill here in West Penwith. It has to be my favourite tree for its berries and flowers.

I love the fritters despite the dozens of tiny bugs:¬)

Shelley Noble said...

How Divine! My favorite bit was how lovely the flowers look as you picked them and how you instructed to remove cobwebs!

Anonymous said...

How beautiful! Thank you for the recipe!

Amanda said...

I'm more familiar with elderberry recipes as opposed to those dealing with the flowers. My father worked for the electrical company for 35 year (climbing poles and such) and had a huge secret patch of elder near a backwoods powerline. Last year, he went to do some standard checking and discoverd the phone company staff hacking and spraying (with herbicide) the elders into oblivion. Our whole family was distraught, especially my father.

Dia said...

I don't know if this is tipical Romanian, but here we make this drink using fresh elder flowers:


1 kg sugar
10-12 flowers
4-5 lemons
8 l cold water
1/2 tea spoon of beer yeast


Boil for 15 minutes 3 litres of water with 1 kg of sugar and the juice of one lemon;

Pour the resulting liquid in a big jar (of about 10 l ) and add the rest of the cold water;

Put into the jar the elder flowers, lemon zest and the juice of the rest of the lemons;

Finally, add the beer yeast and cover the jar with a towel;

Leave at room temperature for 48 hours and stir from time to time;
Filtrate and put in bottles.

It's so easy to do and the result is very refreshing!

pRiyA said...

Somehow everything you do is so romantic. Or at least you made it seem that way.
Elderflower fritters look so delightful.

laoi gaul~williams said...

sounds so good and i love the photo of the bowl by your little window~makes me think of adventures!

fairiemoon said...

This is not only fascinating but looks delicious! Who knew you could learn so much from a recipe.

Erin :)

Anonymous said...

My fav is elderflower cordial. Even the children liked it as toddlers on a hot day. I was all for anything which wasn't sugar heavy for them.

Yoli said...

Rima you are amazing, thanks for the education! How are you? How are your clocks coming along? Tell me you have not abandoned them!

Nancy said...

A variety of elder goes in Texas and I've gathered and made fritters from it many times. Elder makes a wonderful dark rich wine as well. I love elder - one of my boyfriend had a backyard thick with elder.

I wish I could embroider the lacey flower... it's so delicate and fragile.

Thanks Rima for the stories!

Griffin said...


No, we also have elderflower cordial here. It's one of my favourites too! In fact I thought Rima was going to write about the cordial rather than the fritters!!

Once more she caught me out!!

Thanks for your recipe too, I've often wondered how it's done.

Ancestral Gael said...

Thank you for a wonderful recipes and pictures. I have posted links to this all over the place; I hope you don't mind.

I am used to elderflower champagne, elderflower cordial, elderberry wine and cordial, elderberry jam, but had never heard of the flowers being deep fried. Makes sense, as I saw something similar on a television programme about traditional, rural Chinese recipes and flowers were deepfried.

Thanks again!

BT said...

Well, that's a new one on me too. Elderflower fritters, they look utterly delicious.

Vicki's Bit-o-earth said...

Rima, I look forward to every one of your posts. You live such a rich life. The history of the Elder is rich and fascinating. Thank you for sharing the story, the photos and the recipe.

Pamela Terry and Edward said...

Do you eat them warm?
Elderflower Fritters is difficult to say. Especially three times in a row.
Love the sunny day you had!

Anna said...

I love your blog...I visit you often but not always leave you a note...
I love the story about the elder-tree may visit my blog to read about her.
greetings, Anna

Caio Fern said...

how are you Rima ? this is the first time i visit this beautiful universe you show to us .i am just in loved by your work and your blog , i mean , for years i felt , but never found anything like this .i even spent 6 months in england looking for something but the gates seens that wasnt up to open at that time. now i am here at the other side of the world again and found your blog as a consolation price .
here i have been bilding for years my onw litle , fragil and beautiful world ,that i call mein welt. but to find your blog is a huge inspiration.
my blog is basicly about my paintings, i dont expose myself as you do ,i should , but not yet.if one day you visit this little piece of mein welt, i hope you enjoy , at least a little bit . and if you dont mind , i will visit you more times.
(every single word with a smile)

Caio Fern said...

how are you Rima ? this is the first time i visit this beautiful universe you show to us .i am just in loved by your work and your blog , i mean , for years i felt , but never found anything like this .i even spent 6 months in england looking for something but the gates seens that wasnt up to open at that time. now i am here at the other side of the world again and found your blog as a consolation price .
here i have been bilding for years my onw litle , fragil and beautiful world ,that i call mein welt. but to find your blog is a huge inspiration.
my blog is basicly about my paintings, i dont expose myself as you do ,i should , but not yet.if one day you visit this little piece of mein welt, i hope you enjoy , at least a little bit . and if you dont mind , i will visit you more times.
(every single word with a smile)

herhimnbryn said...

As soon as I saw the Rackham image I wondered if you were going to talk about fritters and you did!
I used to make these when I lived in Kent. Used to climb up onto Wye Downs to find the blossoms. I also recall picking damsons from the hedgerows around that area too.

A lovely post Lady R.

Andie said...

All of your posts are so inspiring and magical seeming, and your art is beyond lovely!

Clay Perry said...

wonderful blog, i have enjoyed reading it!!!

Lesley Todd said...

Rima, I'm so pleased to have found your enchanting blog. You transport me to a magical world with your words and pictures. I am telling everyone who will listen about your blog!!

p.s. I planted an elder in the garden last year and now I am thinking about it in a completely different way.

Anonymous said...

Hello Rima, I am so thrilled to have discovered your world! I don't have the time to get lost in it today, but I'll return to do just that, soon. manuela

Anonymous said...

They look very tasty :-)

Mokihana Calizar said...


Anonymous said...

Those look very yummy, especially sans weevils. I've always loved elder flowers, and recently tried elder syrup tonic. Must get some more of that!

Anonymous said...

Mmmm, I love elderflowers - we started off some champagne last night and I'm making some cordial this morning. Must give the fritters a try!

Alice said...

wow .. I absolutely didn't know you could eat them like this. Delicious and very interesting!!! Thanks for sharing. I have internet for a couple of days so I'm busy playing catch up and oh, what a joy it always is to drop in on The Hermitage!

Anne-Marie said...

Hi Rima. Here in New Zealand elder bushes are considered weeds, because they take over every thing! I have always thought there was more than a little magic in them, how ever. They start flowering in my part of the country in September - October. I love picking the flowers in full sun. I make a cordial with them ... but this recipe sounds so delicious I will have to bookmark it for when spring comes again.

Glad I found your blog - it's beautiful.

Rangimarie [peace],

Anonymous said...

Rima thank-you so much for introducing me to Hedgewycherry through your link. I loved it. Your photos are beautiful.

tamerajane said...

I feel the same way about festivals. Here in the states I grew up with Rainbow Gatherings and The Bread & Puppet Domestic Resurrection Circus (you'd love this, look it up if you don't know their work!) - both were lovely, and sometime in the late 90s got packed with rowdy drunk types. Bread & Puppet shut theirs down, but on the west coast, Burning Man still runs strong. No thank you!!!!

& also...
My 92 year old grandmama tells me stories about making elderflower cordial. So sweet! Fairy food!

shadows and clouds said...

lush! elderflower glee!
those fritters look grand. we too adore this plant and each year make elderflower cordial, elderflower fritters, elderberry cordial and elderberry jame (which is amazing spread in the middle of a victoria sponge cake!). we tried elderflower champagne this spring too and it was stunning, so are hoping to make that next year.
i read that you should only use the black variety and not the red, and also avoid eating the stems as well.
have fun with the flowers!
here at the moment it's lime tree paradise, the perfume is driving me delightfully insane! that's good for drying to make an infusion. do you happen to know any other recipes for that?

Jess said...

I ate these one summer's evening in a wild but pretty garden many years ago and to this day, warm summer evenings still remind me of that evening and their special flavour. Thank you for this recipe, now I can recreate them for real!:)xx

Kat_RN said...

Oh the fond memories! I lived in the Cotswalds long ago and some British friends allowed me to help them pick the flowers and make the fritters. We made Elder Flower Champaigne also, but it wasn't quite right. We did have great fun and the Fritters were delightful. Your blog is also delightful. I am happy I found you, I will be back.

Ciara Brehony said...

Ah, yum!

We had a Elder-flower cordial making day lined up this weekend but methinks the essential sunshine may be off somewhere else. Oh well...

Ps. Thanks so much for the sweet birthday wishes to Finn. She was thrilled!

Doreen Frost said...

What a delight..I'm looking forward to trying these tempting treats.


Kirsi Halla-Seppälä said...

I'm actually amazed to find this long lost recipe here. This is a treat my friend made years ago, but she died and took the secret of these fritters with her.

Thank you for sharing this with us!

Eva said...

It moved me to read this, and although I am a bit late for this posting, I have to add: The Elder must have been a divine plant in Germany, too. Holderbusch is an old word for it, and I am sure that it is associated to the Goddess Holda. "hold" also means mercyful, sympathetic or beautiful, tender. You can write books about the healing effects -- but eating the berries raw causes vomiting. In Andersen's fairytales, the Elder goddess appears as "Fliedermütterchen", the Elder Mother. -- It hurts me, too, to see this plant chopped down.

Sofisan said...

My eldertree is just blooming here (in stockholm) well it's not mine but I'm the only one hwo pick it. But I am yet to find something that I really like to do with the flowers. it dousn't stop me from picking them every year hoping to make something that will be the next tradition, this just might be it. (as usual with trees in english I had no idea what an elder tree was untill I saw the picture and went "oooooohhhh, of course")

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Anonymous said...


Sarah said...

Rima, I have just stumbled upon your magical blog and dont' want to leave! How bewitching! Having found this as I was searching for elderflower fritter recipes, it feels doubly magical!

I hope you can make some of this cordial in exchange for the firtters!

wishing you solstice blessings! sarah