Written by: Belinda - Plot 23

Elderflower cordial and wine

Elderflower cordial and wine

A most delicious of summer drinks
Elderflower ‘Champagne’ is such a refreshing, effervescent drink, and it’s almost free. The flowers taste best picked early on a dry day and be used straight after picking. The cream-coloured heads (or umbels) are tastier than the white.

Diluted with water or soda, served with lemon and mint, elderflower cordial is just the thing for a summer’s day. It can also make a refreshing sorbet or tasty gin mixer.

Elderflower cordial

Ingredients

8-10 elderflower heads
2L water
1kg raw sugar (you can reduce this to 750g if you like it sour)
1 lemon peel and the sliced in rounds (you can add a lime if you like)
2 tbsp citric acid
Lemon verbena leaves – to add even more lemony zing

Method

Bring water and sugar to the boil, when all the sugar is dissolved turn off the heat. Immediately add all other ingredients. Stir and cover for 24 hours, stirring occasionally.

Strain through muslin, squeezing the flowers and lemon, into a bowl then use a jug to pour into sterilised bottles, store the bottles in the fridge.

Elderflower ‘Champagne’

Ingredients

8 large elderflower heads
9L water
1kg sugar
4 lemons
4 tbsp mild white wine vinegar

Method

Dissolve the sugar in boiling water, leave to cool and add the elderflowers, the juice of two of the lemons, slices of the other two and the vinegar. Cover with a cloth and leave for a day. Strain with muslin in a fine sieve, squeezing the flowers. Store in screw-top bottles. It’ll be ready in about a fortnight and should be drunk within a month.

Folklore

  • Elderflower – Sambucus nigra
    To fell a tree without suitable protection could free a spirit called the Elder Mother to take her revenge
  • The elderflower was said to be a protection against witches, and a knotted twig kept in the pocket was a charm against rheumatism
  • Elderflowers were apparently never struck by lightning, and a cross of elder fastened above stables would protect the animals from evil Medicinal benefits
  • Elderflower cordials and elderberry wines are high in vitamins A, B and C
  • In A Modern Herbal of 1931, Mrs Grieves recommends an elderflower infusion, taken hot before bed, as a remedy for colds and throat trouble
  • Mrs Grieves swears by elder leaves as an insect deterrent. The foul-smelling bruised leaves around tender plants and buds prevent attack by aphids and cater-pillars, and gardeners can add a sprig to their hatband to ward off midges
  • Medical herbalist Christine Houghton says a daily elderflower infusion, made with fresh flowers, is helpful in preventing hay fever

Download Elderflower cordial and wine recipe sheet [PDF]

When caterpillars invade…

I noticed caterpillars chomping their way through my tatsoi yesterday and spent some time picking and squishing, only to return today to find they have traveled across the mustard, rainbow chard and mizuna and have now started on the rocket. They are hard little critters to spot, so I’m turning to the internet, for a natural remedy.

I found a post on home-made remedies from Colin Campbell on Gardening Australia from back in 2009.

Colin advises, “Be careful of these solutions around children, as they should not be ingested. Don’t store them in soft drink bottles and make sure you keep them out of reach of children.”

Here’s what I’m going to try:

Caterpillar, Grasshopper and Possum Deterrent: Mix a cup of molasses into one litre of water and spray it over new foliage. (I read somewhere else that caterpillars would rather starve that eat this)

Aphids, Caterpillars and Other Insects: Add two tablespoons of soap flakes to one litre of water and stir thoroughly until completely dissolved (this is quicker in warm water). There is no need to dilute this further, just spray it on as is.

And I like this little tip, for calling in the predators to help out with the job:

Predator Attractor: Predators that prey on pests are great things to have in the garden. Lacewings are particularly desirable because they consume aphids and many other pests. To encourage them into your garden, dissolve one teaspoon of a yeast based sandwich spread in water and spray it all over the plants.

There are lots more tips given, so check the full post here.

We’re moving up in the world

  • The Timber Stack
  • A day of heavy lifting
  • Teamwork

We’re in the process of building a second layer on our garden beds, that’s 36 beds, at least 144 pieces of timber. Here are some pics from our first working bee.

Companion Planting Guide

  1. Plant short, shade-tolerant plants beneath taller, bushy plants.
  2. When you mix sun-loving plants, put tall ones at the north end of the plot and small ones at the south end, so all will get needed sun.
  3. Plant herbs throughout the garden, especially basil, mint, sage, and dill.
    EXCEPTION: Keep dill away from carrots.
  4. Plant cosmos and French or Mexican marigold here and there in and near the garden to repel pests and encourage beneficials that prey on them.
  5. Do the same with chives, garlic, or onions EXCEPT near or amongst beans.
  6. Exploit the different maturation rates of different crops: plant lettuce, coriander, spinach, or chard early where you plan to set out squash and melons later, so that weeds don’t have a chance to move in, and you get two crops instead of just one.
  • Don’t mix dill with tomatoes or with carrots.
  • Don’t plant garlic, onions, or chives with beans.
  • Fennel does not mix well with most other plants; keep it in its own corner.

Read the full article at Planet Natural

Beans, corn & zucchini
(the three sisters)

I recently came across this great tip (an ancient method used by the Native Americans)… Can’t wait to try it in plot 23 when spring arrives!

  1. Sow eight corn seeds in a circular pattern (6 inches between each seed)
  2. A couple of weeks later once the corn has sprouted, plant about four beans around each corn stalk
  3. A week after your beans have sprouted and begin to grow up the corn, take 6-8 zucchini seeds (or and seeds from the curcubit / gourd family) and plant them evenly spaced outside the ring of corn and beans.

Beans provide nitrogen for the nutrient-hungry corn, the corn provides a support for the beans, and the zucchini suppresses the weeds.