I was intensely happy when Zoe, my 11 year old daughter asked me to get her some ascorbic acid so that she could make some elderflower cordial. It was something about those creamy, lacy leaves, the nostalgic idea of warm balmy picnics despite the all elusive summer, the fact that she was swapping her vampire novels to do something highly creative, the idea of foraging something from the garden and the fact that I’d had the recipe for years but never got round to it, that made me very happy indeed that she was up for some seasonal creating.
My enthusiasm tempered somewhat when I noticed; how much sugar? Mother health heckles up, I was yo yo-ing between summery floral overtone with keynotes of blossom and why the heck can’t she just drink water? Smelling the fragrant blooms, I also realised that they did indeed smell of urine, as my husband pointed out.
Instead I brought into my mind images of Bach flower remedies, innate healing properties – (surely?) of elderflower, and gentle images of subtle infusions of loveliness and surely some sort of high vibrational frequency and banished my motherly up-tightness. It was delicious afterall.
However on going to my brother in laws, clutching the ascorbic acid that he requested after selecting his own nodding head of elderflowers to make his own syrupy nectar, he let slip his apprehension about making this old wives recipe for fear of the cyanide poising that he was putting himself at risk of?
Heck that threw me into overdrive…there is me worried about my daughter’s sugar levels, yeast overgrowth and depletion of minerals and had rather neglected to understand the very real additional possibility of cyanide poisoning!
I have since Googled it and am reassured that the elderberry and apple pies that we make lovingly in the winter are fine because the berries are cooked. I have also seen it mentioned that it is both cooking and ‘steeping’ that render the cyanide unproblematic. However does ‘steeping’ mean boiling gently? as in some recipes, or does it mean just leaving immersed for a few days as in my daughter’s recipe? Need to know more.
My brother in law insisted that thorough preparation by removing the flower heads from the stalks is necessary. I also read of several people who have had serious vomiting issues from shop bought dried elderberries and also from making fresh fruit smoothies with the berries.
I have seen plenty of recipes with beautiful photographs showing the heads with stalks intact immersed in sugary water. However similar to porridge, no longer being prepared adequately through lack of soaking…I am aware that modern ‘rushed’ methods of preparation can lead us astray. I shall look up some more and it is certainly food for thought.
I don’t have my science head on at the moment but will look up the why’s and wherefore’s at another time. In the meantime, sugar aside Maude Grieve offered elderflower infusion as a “good old-fashioned remedy for colds and throat trouble” A Modern Herbal.
A whole host of other reported benefits have also been attributed to this commonly growing tree including:
- alleviating constipation
- herpes simplex (fever blisters)
- treating ear infections
- reducing fever
- boosting the immune system
- stimulating circulation
- general healing
- rheumatic problems
- reducing inflammation
- soothing the respiratory tract
There is also a “The Little Cyanide Cookbook”:
Because of it’s unique molecular structure, this compound releases cyanide only at the cancer site, thus destroying cancer cells while nourishing non-cancer tissue…
Cyanide in minute quantities and in the proper food forms, instead of being poisonous actually is an essential component of normal body chemistry. Vitamin B12 for instance contains cyanide in the form of cyanocobalamine.
By June de Spain
So for now cyanide aside and ice cubes a plenty.