How to make elderflower sorbet

Elderflower is a popular ingredient in wines and cordials, but also makes a delicious, refreshing sorbet.

Elderflower sorbet. © Sanjida O'Connell

One of the joys of late spring is seeing elder in flower, its branches precariously piled high as if with plates of whipped cream, the air thick with their heady, honeyed scent. Until the 19th century, people used to make ointments with the flowers to bleach freckles, and a tea from the dried florets as a ‘blood purifier’.

Elderflower in bloom at the end of June in Cumbria, UK. © Stephen Dorey/Getty
Elderflower in bloom at the end of June in Cumbria, UK. © Stephen Dorey/Getty

When can elderflower be picked?

Elderflower usually starts to bloom in late May and early June. When foraging, it’s vital to only pick something if you’re sure you’ve correctly identified it. The flowers are creamy-white and smell sweet, and the leaves have between five and seven leaflets with festery edges.

The flowers can be made into drinks from cordial to gin, into shortbread, or into elderflower fritters by dipping them in batter and frying. This is like eating a solidified version of the scent, so the fritters may be better as a garnish rather than a dessert.

Elder in bloom. © Sanjida O'Connell
Elder in bloom. © Sanjida O’Connell

Can elderberries be used for any recipes?

As the season progresses into autumn, shiny berries form where the elderflowers once bloomed. They are ripe when they are very dark purple, almost black, in colour. Elderberries should be cooked before consuming, as they are mildly poisonous – causing nausea, vomiting and diarrhoea.

Elderberries can be used to make elderberry wine, or combined with other berries for hedgerow ketchup.

Learn more about identifying wild fruits.

Ripe elderberries on a branch. © Kacege Photography/Getty
Ripe elderberries on a branch. © Kacege Photography/Getty


  • Elderflower heads 4
  • Sugar 225g
  • Water 600ml
  • Lemons 3, Rind and juice


  • Step 1

    Pick elderflowers on a dry day and don’t wash them – simply shake the umbels to get rid of any insects. To make the sorbet, dissolve the sugar into 600ml of water, bring to the boil and simmer gently for 10 minutes to create a light syrup.

    Elderflower. © Sanjida O'Connell
    When picking elderflower, don’t rinse them. Instead shake them to get rid of any small insects. © Sanjida O’Connell
  • Step 2

    Once off the heat, add the flowers from four large elderflower heads and the rind and juice of three lemons. Don’t boil the flowers as this eradicates the scent. Leave to cool.

    Adding elderflowers to the syrup. © Sanjida O'Connell
    Adding elderflowers to the syrup. © Sanjida O’Connell


  • Step 3

    Once cooled, strain and pour into an ice-cream maker. Alternatively, part freeze, whisk, part freeze and whisk again to break up the ice crystals as they start to form. The sorbet would go well with lightly poached gooseberries, hot apple pie or summer berries, but is perfect on its own as a refreshing end to a summer barbecue.

    Elderflower sorbet. © Sanjida O'Connell
    Elderflower sorbet. © Sanjida O’Connell