Wednesday, January 2, 2019

Cape Town Elderflowers

My conservationist-friend Don (who is the new curator of the Stellenbosch Botanical Garden) heard I was foraging for elderflowers in Cape Town. So he WhatsApped me a map with a pin GPS'd onto a "motherlode" of the shrub. It is is (very) invasive locally. I headed there and struck summer gold. 

I love picking elderflowers - so  quick easy. The umbels are snappable and packed with little blossoms. 

I had already started a small batch of fermented elderflower cordial, and I boosted it with my fresh finds. (Don't be tempted to keep the green stems in the ferment or syrup. Pick-pick-pick. Apart from their potential toxicity I am more offended by the viscous quality that too many green stemmy bits will lend to the cordial.)

The kitchen table at No. 9 is a good place to work. 

It thrills me that I can find elderflowers in New York and in Cape Town, two hemispheres apart. It's a tough and adaptable plant. My friend Jacqueline kindly brought my mom a copy of Forage Harvest Feast from New York, back in September, so I could use my own recipes (made with Brooklyn flowers!). At the time it was not available in South Africa, but it is now being sold on Loot and it will be in local shops around late February. Ask your local bookshops (and please tell them that SG are the distributors, if they want to know; it will help them order!).

The elderflower cordial has been fermenting for four days now and is fizzing nicely. Last night I could not resist, and scooped some out and added it to a summer cocktail of white rum, fresh lemon juice, mint from the garden, and fizzy water.

But there are lots of other uses for it, from incredible vinegar (a second and longer fermentation), to potted shrimp, pan juices and deliciously tender madeleines.



  1. Could you please share the location with me as well. I want to teach my lovely children where to find it.

    1. They are in many of the Constantia and Tokai greenbelts, but wait for summer to spot their lacy caps of flowers.


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