Elder trees Sambucus nigra are common across Europe as well as much of the US and Canada. It can be found growing in parks and gardens, at the edge of forests and in hedgerows.

Elderflower foraging © Michael Moeller/EyeEm/Getty.

The flowers and berries of the elder tree grow in an umbrella like pattern and both can be used to make edible treats. The berries contain cyanide so must be cooked before they can be eaten. They can be used to make jams, baked good and elderflower cordial.

The small white flowers of the elder are in bloom around mid-May to June and have a sweet fragrance.


  • 2tbsp Elderflowers, fresh
  • 100g Butter
  • 50g Granulated sugar
  • 150g All-purpose flour


  • STEP 1

    Preheat the oven to 180°C/Gas Mark 4. Meanwhile, remove the flowers from their stems making sure to take away as much of the stem as you can.

  • STEP 2

    Cut the butter into cubes and place them in a bowl with the rest of the ingredients. Use your fingers to rub everything together until they become like breadcrumbs, then add the elderflowers and roughly mix everything together.

  • STEP 3

    Push the crumbs mix together with your hands so it forms a dough, then push this down into a greased baking tin and bake for 20 minutes or until golden.

    Elder shortbread. © Jason Ingram
    Elder shortbread. © Jason Ingram

Dave Hamilton is an author, freelance writer, tutor, photographer, forager and explorer of historic sites and natural places. As a freelance nature writer, he’s contributed to BBC Wildlife, BBC Countryfile, Walk Magazine and the Guardian. He’s authored six books, including Amazon top ten best-seller, Wild Ruins and the comprehensive foraging guide, Where the Wild Things Grow. His books have been translated into five different languages selling over 75,000 copies worldwide. Dave has taught foraging to Ben Fogle and Mary Berry and led Guardian Masterclasses on the subject. In his spare time, he walks, cycles and occasionally performs as a stand-up comic.

David Hamilton

This is a recipe from Family Foraging by David Hamilton, published by White Lion Publishing.

Family Foraging book cover


David HamiltonForager, photographer and author