Rachel Lambert: forager, author, guide
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Can you eat pink elderflowers?

Flowering black beauty tree/shrub

Wow, they're pink! Pink elderflowers with beautiful dark purple, almost black foliage and the flowers smell like elderflowers - what a find! But are they edible?

Black beauty, Black lace, Sambucus nigra, f. porphyrophylla 'Gerda' are an ornamental subspecies of Elder. Their flowers smell lemony and they're a stunner to look at! They are often bought and planted for these exact features. I've only found these in planted gardens and in urban areas.

Holding up a pink elderflower and black lace leaf

Why plant Black beauty?

As well as having flowers that can be used for elderflower cordial and other delicious recipes (see below). Sambucus 'Black Beauty' is known for attracting bees, beneficial insects, birds, butterflies​/​moths and other pollinators. It is a caterpillar food plant, has nectar/pollen rich flowers, provides shelter and habitat, has seeds for birds and makes a good wildlife hedge.

Basket of pink elderflowers (black lace)

Can you eat all types and colours of elderflower?

In general, it is not advised to eat elderflowers or elderberries raw. Some people get a stomach upset and there is a mild toxicity. That is why traditionally, elderflowers are infused not eaten and elderberries are cooked (to make syrup, wine or pontack sauce).

Elderflowers are native to North America and most of Europe, they can also be found in some areas of Australia and New Zealand. The main species is known as Elder, Black elder, European black elder, elderberry.

There is other species such as Mexican elder (Sambucus mexicana) also known as blue elder. The flowers of the blue elder can be used in the same way as all the elderflower species, but the berries should be cooked for at 30 minutes to make edible.

Pink elderflowers (black lace) growing in urban areas

How can I use pink elder flowers?

Pink elderflowers can be used instead of white elderflowers for cordial, syrup, wine and champagne. The cordial can also be used in a variety of desserts and sweet treats such as elderflower jam, elderflower doughnuts, elderflower quick, creamy, sponge.

But... the colour is so good it is worth thinking about pink foods! I'll be posting a recipe for this very soon.

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