Elderflower Picking at Pendower

A few years ago, I went elderflower picking with my mum. This resulted in her making some delicious and refreshing homemade cordial.

Every May to June, elderflower appears in abundance in Cornwall, and I promise myself I’ll do the same. I’ve obviously waited a few years for the idea to imbue because this is the first time I’ve been elderflower picking since.

Running on the Cornish south west coast path has its advantages. It means I’ve clocked where elderflower’s growing and more importantly, whether or not I can reach it.

I decided to trot down to the coast path from Pendower Beach on the Roseland Peninsula, and enjoy a moment of elderflower picking. 

Pendower Beach on The Roseland Peninsula

Having been before with my mum, I’d recommend taking a traditional walking stick to hook around the branches. The elderflower can be hard to reach.

In usual Penny style, I left mine in my car. No biggie thankfully, as I found some elderflower shrubs flowering at shoulder and head height – thank you, Mother Nature.

Elderflower Picking

Walking along the Cornwall’s coast path is always a positive experience. I’d already delayed the elderflower picking by a day as it was raining so much.

By the time I made it outdoors for my little hike, the sun had started to shine. This only made me more eager to forage for elderflower. 

Lady Standing on Coastpath

Walking along the south west coast path from Pendower Beach towards Porthscatho brought back memories from similar childhood walks with my Gran and sister.

Further along, near Portloe, we’d traipse the coast path, run and play for what seemed like hours, until it was time to come home for tea. We even put on a Buck Fizz show on the coast path once, overlooking Portloe. You never know what you’re going to find! 

I simply love the coast path views, they’re never boring or disappointing. It certainly makes for a satisfying and scenic walk. As the sun was out for my elderflower picking, Kernow was glistening in all its glory. 

Pendower Beach Sea Cliff coast path
Cornwall Coastpath Pendower Beach Sea Tree

The elderflower wasn’t hard to find. I walked about half a mile before I remembered I’d left my stick in the car.

I recalled how, on a previous run, the elderflower would be hard to reach further along the coast path. With that it mind, I returned to the opening of the path at Pendower Beach where I’d already spotted some low growing elderflower, ready for picking.

Elderflower In Season Flowers

A fair few walkers passed by as I was reaching and picking. They all asked me what I was going to make. One man asked if I was making elderflower champagne and my immediate thought was “Why didn’t I think of that?” Certainly one to remember for next time.

Another shared how he’d seen other people at the nearby village of Gerrans scaling a hedge in order to pick the best elderflower. I’m pleased I didn’t have to go to such efforts!

Elderflower bush in season

How To Make Elderflower Cordial

I’d already checked out some online elderflower cordial recipes and had settled on using Jamie Oliver’s.

I only needed 15 elderflower heads to make 1 litre of cordial which didn’t seem that much once I was out collecting it. I probably picked double that, not that I was counting, and decided to double the recipe.

Elderflower in colander in sink

Once home, I removed the stalks and washed the elderflower. The elderflower needs to be used quickly as it’ll start to go brown.

Once washed and bug free, I added the newly picked elderflower to some boiled water, with dissolved sugar and honey. I grated some lemon zest and added some freshly squeezed lemon juice for good measure. The mixture was then left to do its thing for 24 hours before being strained in a muslin. 

I was left with just over 2 bottles of golden cordial. I’ve drunk little else since making it. The elderflower cordial is both nectar sweet (not sickeningly so) and refreshing. 

Bottles of homemade elderflower cordial held in hand

It’s satisfying foraging, picking and making your own food and drink. There’s something slow and relaxing about it. I’ve taken much joy from making something connected to wild nature, while it’s in season.

Have you ever made your own cordial, or foraged for something else? If so, what did you make? I’d love to hear your ideas.

Author: plbedford

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