Legends of Elder

Legends surrounding elder are many and wonderful. It was said that if you burn elder you would see the devil (maybe because of the way the wood spits), but if you planted elder by your house, you'd keep witches away. Some suggested specifically that the elder should be planted behind your house (and Rowan in front) for maximum effect! 

Elder is associated with both fire and air in legend. The Greeks claimed that Prometheus stole fire from Mount Olympus by carrying the coals in a hollowed elder stem, while Pliny endowed it with the name Sumbucus after the Sambuca flute, which was made by removing the soft centre from elder stems. We still formally refer to elder as Sambucus Nigra (the Nigra referencing the dark berries which fruit in the Autumn).

The English name elder actually came from the Saxon word aeld, meaning fire. There's uncertainty as to why, but those hollowed stems were used to fan flames and the dried wood was used as tinder.

In Scandic folklore, it was the guardian Mother Elder, which translated to Old Lady in English tales. It is occasionally also referred to as the Judas tree, as legend claims that Judas Escariot hanged himself from an elder tree. 

Elderflower is one of the eight floral components we forage for Pollination Gin, contributing to its Dovey Native Botanical Gin complexity. 

If you're picking elderflower yourself, whilst easy to identify, please always take advice with all wild plants when it comes to foraging and preparing. And as elder likes nitrogen-rich soils, be careful of nettles, rabbit warrens and badger setts. 

As a seasonal treat, sweet elderflower fritters, served hot with dusted icing sugar and simple vanilla ice cream makes for a gorgeous dessert. 

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