7.03.2020

ELDERBERRY FLOWERS // elspeth


We’ve been biking a lot lately. We’re down to one car and so while Alex is at work the girls and I make our way through the world on the bucket bike I picked up used when Sally was small. When Nora came along and got big and then bigger I added an electric motor, and so the bike and its four-seatbelt benches are now my de facto minivan.

The girls are used to it by now, the extra layer they’ll want on a trip home from the beach, the book to bring if our destination is far away. I like the speed we travel at on the bike, not as slow as walking but not so hurried as the car. I like what we notice at 15 miles per hour. The other day we were biking home from a swim when I suddenly saw a plant I’d been trying to find for years. I’d looked at pictures of elderberry plants on the computer and in books and friends have told me they forage them here, but every time I’ve brought home a leaf or a flower they’ve been wrong. Suddenly, though, biking home, I saw them everywhere. I was sure.

Elderberry flowers! I called back to the girls. I SEE them!


I wrote a little about seeing on this week’s Local Food Report, about the ways places we think we've known for years can open up in new ways. Last year I discovered wild cherries at my parents' house, in the yard where I played my whole childhood, and this spring I suddenly found they were also in our yard here. It's been making me think about how long it takes to really get to know a place, and about how so many conversations we're having now about land and history and repair are about that knowing. The older I get the more I understand that a year, a decade, a lifetime—these are just drops in a bucket.



Maybe because of the speed and scale of everything else happening in the world right now, we are holding onto familiarity in the kitchen. We’ve made a few new things—an absolute stunner of a tomato-feta-clam-shrimp dish from Ottolenghi’s Jerusalem that I’ve had bookmarked for approximately 5 years, and a highly refreshing batch of this sangria with a handful of languishing fruit. Otherwise we’ve been making summer favorites: my mom’s chilled cucumber salad with a little sprinkle of fresh dill, Alex’s heavily red-onioned and dilled potato salad, Molly Wizenberg’s soul-satisfying fudgesicles, chicken salad, pesto pasta, and Raspberry Zinger sun tea. The mulberries are starting, too, which means we’re due for a batch of Berry Ricotta Cake from Standard Baking Co. and maybe some experimenting at my neighbor Sarah’s recommendation with some mulberry wine. (If you have any experience, please report!)

Probably the most exciting thing to happen around here lately, pending the ripening of the wild high bush blueberries, is that one of our hens has gone broody and tonight night we’re planning to sneak in and swap out her unfertilized eggs for 7 or so fertilized beauties from the coop of a friend with roosters. Whether or not we get any live chicks from this experiment remains to be seen, but we’re hoping.


In the meantime, if you do anything with elderberries—or their blooms!—please share. I’m dreaming up a locally foraged version of this amazing winter-support immune syrup now that I’ve discovered both elderberries and wild black cherries growing close to home.

Last but not least, I have some new writing I’m excited about up on Heated. It’s about migratory beekeepers, and the essential work they do to keep our agricultural system running. It’s both crazy that this is the system we’ve developed, and fascinating to learn about how they do their work. I hope you’ll give it a read.

Stay healthy out there, friends.

Update 7.15.20: we made this elderflower syrup, and it's delicious! 

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We love elderflower fritters (although we don’t eat many because we make a LOT of immune syrup out of the berries so we like to save most of them!) Our recipe is from an old cookbook but there are many comparable ones available on the Internet. Thanks for the lovely post, it’s nice to read your thoughts on all of these subjects!

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