I’ve said often that June is my favorite month. The weather has settled, the flowers are blooming, and the bounty of the potager is flowing into the kitchen. But it’s the elder that makes this month so special to me. That ancient herb that has inspired so many recipes, cured so many ills, and blessed us with beauty, fragrance and much more! When the elder blooms, all seems right with the world to me. I’m amazed at the thousands of tiny flowers perfuming the air and delighting pollinators. Earlier this week, I gathered 120 huge clusters of elderblow at its perfection in my big, big bowl. Yes, I counted as I packed them into the bowl! Not for any reason, my mind just counts automatically. Comes from years and years of picking everlastings that had to have 50 or 100 stems to the bunch. Afterwards, the elder looked just as full of bloom as before! The clusters should be picked when the flowers are fully opened all across the head. If you look closely at the edges of this cluster, you can see that some of the flowers are already turning brown, so ideally it should have been picked sooner but it’s still perfectly usable at this stage. In fact, lots of the flowers have gone to waste as you can see from the “snow” on the sidewalk below it. Some of the flowers were blown off by the wind, some fell as I harvested fragile clusters. Then each flower must be gently pulled from the stem. Do this carefully, and remove all the stems, which can be toxic if consumed in quantity. See flowers, no stems! It takes a while, but I find it very relaxing. It’s a good job to do when you need a break from weeding or digging, or it’s just too darned hot to work outside. I turn a lot of the fresh flowers into Elderflower “Champagne” or into elderflower syrup, which has dozens of uses (See last year’s post on elder.) Or, I make this delicious Elderflower-Gooseberry tart! Served with a bit of whipped cream, it’s one of my very favorite desserts! The rest of the flowers are spread onto cookies sheets and placed in a quiet space, out of the sunlight to dry. I say a quiet space because once I placed them on the kitchen table with a nearby open window. When someone opened the door, it created a cross-breeze and thousand of tiny white flowers blew off the cookies sheets and onto the kitchen floor! Don’t make my mistake! If you look carefully you can see some of the tiny flowers on the tray are still white rather than the lovely golden tone. That means not all of the flowers are totally dry, so don’t put them into a jar until they are. I stir them a couple times a day. In air conditioning, it generally takes 2-3 days to dry and then they can go into jars. Clear glass jars like these will need to be stored in a dark cupboard so the flowers can retain both their flavor and medicinal qualities. Elderflower tea is a must when I feel a cold or flu coming on, or if I just feel “blah.” It’s delicious, especially with a bit of honey. This is my elder today, still covered in blooms although I’ve made two huge harvests. Most of the clusters (the brown-looking ones) have already been pollinated and will now produce those beautiful, black berries that will become jelly or cordials, or dried to be used in tarts, cakes, or my favorite Elderberry-Chicken dish. As you can see, even though hundreds of clusters have been cut, there will still be LOTS of berries. In fact, I’ve found in the years I didn’t harvest flowers, there were approximately the same number of berries ripen. I suppose the tree can only nurture a range of berry clusters. There’s just one last harvest of pretty white clusters, which I’ll do now. Hopefully, it is to rain this afternoon and stemming elderflowers while watching raindrops will be a fine way to spend a June afternoon.