Thursday, 12 March 2009

Elder Flowers, Berries and Wood

Elder Flowers, Berries and WoodWhen in the UK, elder flowers and elderberries were collected and mixed with other fruits to make wine. The berries given the body and the flowers the aroma. The results were good , but know I grow grapes to make wine I don't do it anymore. It does make a great contribution to many a good bottle of wine, but the elder is not confined to just a wine making ingredient. There is more to the elder than meets the eye.

Elder Flowers, Berries and WoodThe elder has around 30 species usually in the form of a shrub or small tree. Two of the species are a herbaceous plant and therefore it can be classified as a herb. It is native in mainly northern hemisphere temperate or subtropical regions.

The leaves range from 5 cm to 30 cm long with long serrated edges. They come in large clusters with small white or cream coloured flowers in late spring. Small black, blue or red berries take their place soon after. The flowers are used to produce elderflower wine as mentioned, even on a commercial scale in some countries. The herbs are also popular as ornamental features that are grown in many gardens.

Elderberry twigs can be hollowed and in places where maple tree grow traditionally been used as spiles to tap the trees for syrup. Rich in vitamin C, the berries are a very valuable food resource for many birds and humans alike. Many a time I have found dead elder wood a favourite place where the 'Jew's ear' edible mushroom grows.

Perhaps only watchmakers and repairers know this, but the wood is used from the Elder tree by watchmakers to clean their tools before they start working on the small parts of watches.

Elder Flowers, Berries and WoodSteeped in history the elder tree warded off evil influences and gave protection from the evil witches. It is also traditional thinking that if an elder tree was chopped down the spirit of the 'Elder Mother' would come and take revenge. to avoid this revenge, the tree could be cut while singing or chanting a rhyme to the Elder Mother.

The elder and it's produce continue to give health benefits and would be a great addition to any garden. Not just for the the point of a pleasant sight of the flowers and subsequent berries both being used in the kitchen but it has very low maintenance and looks after itself.

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