The Elder Tree is widespread across Britain and Northern Europe, and it's use can be traced back as far as the Romans and Greeks. It's a mystical tree, with legends about faeries, goddesses and witches associated with it, and it has been attributed as both protective and evil, depending on which belief system you follow.
The fragrant flowers are beautiful, and are commonly made into cordial, champagne and used to flavour summer puddings such as gooseberry fool. Other parts of the plant have been used throughout history, however if prepared inappropriately, or taken in the wrong dose, it can be toxic, so I would caution against doing so without a strong knowledge base. Interestingly, I have heard that in some cultures, burning Elder wood can lead to banishment as the wood contains cyanide, so it's definitely not a tree for the woodpile!
The sweet, heady scent of Honeysuckle, is one of the most delightful fragrnces you can find in our hedgerows. Strongest at night in order to attract pollinating moths, it is a hugely valuable plant for our native wildlife. Honeysuckle is a climbing plant, common in hedgerows, scrub and woodlands where it twines itself around other shrubs and trees. Whorls of trumpet-shaped flowers appear from June to August and clusters of red berries ripen in the autumn.
The name Meadowsweet is said to come, not from the fact that it grows in meadows as one would expect, but from its early use to flavour mead, evolving from Middle English Medewurte, as it appears in Chaucer’s The Knight’s Tale. We find in it's long documented history, that it was also considered an important strewing herb in Elizabethan times, and is believed to be one of the most important herbs used by Druids. Meadowsweet has been used extensively in herbal medicine, and in fact is the plant that Salicylic acid was first isolated in, which lead to the creation of Aspirin.
You can find our recipe for Meadowsweet Cordial here.
The Dog Rose is a climbing wild rose species native to Europe, northwest Africa and western Asia. It is the most abundant of our native, wild roses, with sweet-scented pink or white flowers that appear in June and July. It's fruits are produced in autumn, and are a valuable source of food for our native wildlife. They can be used to make delicious syrups and jellies, and contain high levels of antioxidants and Vitamins C.
You can find our Rose Hip and Crab Apple Jelly here.
I was lucky enough to see, and photograph, all these wonderful fragrant flowers on my dog walk this morning - the Meadowsweet bloom is the first I have seen coming out of bud this year - why not get out and see if you can find all of them near you, as one of your #30DaysWIld activities.