This picture was taken at the end of February when the Elders near me were just beginning to show leaf...a time when the sun begins to regain its strength.
Now they have developed on so that in the next weeks all will be in bloom. For me, the sweet smell of Elderflowers, on the breeze of a warm and sunny day, heralds the beginning of summer. This is not just because of the time of year that this event takes place. Rather, there is something very warming about the Elderflower itself that is captured in its dried petals....to be released in an aromatic and healing tea during the winter months.
Another way to capture the warmth of the Elderflower is to make wine. We think of wine as a beverage,yet, if we read the old herbals we learn that wine was a common way to administer medicine. In many lands, where grapes dominate, they have failed, or lost the art, to explore, with such depth, the value of many other sources of flavour available in the wild herbs and trees of the surrounding countryside as we have in the UK. For many, the Elder is seen as a weed tree. Yet those who embrace the treasures of the countryside are well versed in its versatility and value. I have personally made wine from endless wild plants, leaves and flowers. Many come to mind that have an effect beyond that of their alcohol content.....Elderflower is one. The wine started in summer will, by December, create a deeply warming drink to shake off the cold months of winter that enter down to the bones.
When I lived in my cottage in Dorset There were several Elders in the hedge surrounding the garden. Yet, one of these even took pride of place in a central location within the garden. This was a mature tree planted before my occupancy, indicating that respect for the Elder was not mine alone.
I have fond memories of climbing my old wooden ladder, under a sky of blue, and gathering the heavily scented flowers to be transformed into wine, cordial and tea.
The flowers can be used alone, but I prefer to combine them with two other herbs to make my The Green Man's Winter Resistance Tea. This tea I use to stop colds and flu in its tracks...or shorten its duration by aiding the body in its work of sweating out impurities.
Equally important are the berries, which can be made into an excellent wine or into a Rob that is taken through the winter months as a preventative. However, just like the tea, it can also be taken when a cold has already taken hold.
When the first leaves of the Elder start to appear at the end of winter it awakens our desire for the warm days that lay ahead...but in the great cycle of things it should also remind us that soon the work begins to gather and dry the herbs...and prepare the medicines that will see us through the cold days of ailment that will soon come around again.