Taken from Lynne’s weekly column ‘Green Scene’ for the Western Mail. 10th June 2017
The Meteorological summer starts on the 1st of June but folklore says that June doesn’t start until the elder flower is out. Either way, summer is officially here as the elderflower is out in all its glory. Mum used to make fabulous elderflower cordial but I have to be honest my preference is for elderflower champagne.
It’s easy to make, and you don’t need any special equipment: just a clean saucepan and some empty plastic pop or water bottles. Elderflower champagne is similar to lemonade but with a beautiful floral taste, and is mildly alcoholic (drinkable from about 1.5% alcohol by volume). You only need 5 or 6 “heads” of flowers to make one gallon of champagne so it doesn’t take more than a few minutes to gather them, and the finished champagne is ready to drink in two or three weeks.
For 4.5L (one gallon) you will need:
- five or six heads of elderflower
- two lemons
- 750g (one and a half pounds) of sugar
- two tablespoons of vinegar (preferably cider vinegar)
- enough plastic fizzy drinks bottles to hold the elderflower champagne.
There is no yeast in this recipe as the flowers are not scalded or sterilised, which leaves the wild yeasts naturally present on the blooms to do the fermentation for you.
Pick nice young flower heads, where the flowers have not yet started to drop petals or turn brown. Pick early in the morning and use immediately, or they tend to smell a bit like cat’s pee!
Put 4.5 litres (1 gallon) of water in a large lidded saucepan.
Add the elderflower heads and two sliced lemons. Put the lid on, and leave it for 24 to 36 hours.
Strain the liquid through a clean cloth or sieve.
Add 750g (one and a half pounds) of sugar and two tablespoons of cider vinegar, and stir until all the sugar has dissolved.
Pour into fizzy drinks bottles, leaving a gap at the top. Put the tops on, but don’t screw them on tight yet – just stand the bottles in a corner and keep an eye on them. After a few days they will start to make tiny bubbles as the wild yeasts get to work on the sugar.
After one or two weeks the bubbles will gradually slow down. When they look like they have pretty much stopped, screw the lids down and put the bottles somewhere fairly cool. Give them another few days to generate enough gas to carbonate themselves, and you’re set – just refrigerate the bottle before you need it, and enjoy.
And don’t forget to ask the Elder tree for permission before you pick the flowerheads, folklore has it that you will have bad luck if not.
Change Your Mind
There is a lot of talk about mindfulness at the moment and it’s benefits. Basically, as I see it, being mindful is simply being in the now – being fully in your mind. It was a state that I used to reach, unexpectedly, when I was running barefoot. You have to watch each and every step and that organically keeps you in the now. I noticed great changes in my mind-set (or set mind) and attributed them to a combination of being in the moment and running. It was also very meditative. I have tried various forms of meditation but not kept them up as I have struggled with the goal of ‘not having thoughts’ so I have been particularly enamoured with transcendental meditation or TM. The technique allows the activity of the mind to settle down in a natural way until it is left quiet, yet wide awake. It allows stress and tiredness to be dissolved naturally, resulting in greater energy, clarity and enjoyment of life.
Having learnt the principles a few weeks ago, I have managed to meditate twice a day since and am already noticing the benefits.
Gardening may be considered to be one of the most therapeutic ways to relax and unwind – but that’s not always the case if it’s your business! Together with the added time and thought consuming aspects of writing, public speaking and other day-to-day ‘froth’, I was beginning to feel quite frazzled a lot of the time.
To be honest, it has been tricky to ‘gift’ myself twenty minutes twice a day on times but I think that commitment to oneself and well being is all part of keeping a healthy mind. If you think you can’t afford to invest 40 minutes a day into your well being, to improve your health, emotional state and productivity, that’s exactly when you need TM!
Visit http://uk.tm.org/web/cardiff-south-wales/contact-us to find out more and to book a no-obligation introductory talk with Helen Evans, and literally ‘change your mind’!
Still Time to Veg Out
It’s been a difficult spring in the veg plot, with frosts, dry weather and storms seeing off lots of seedlings. Even Radio 2’s Allotment Guru, Terry Walton lost his early potatoes to Jack Frost, this year. If you have struggled, don’t forget you can still buy young veggie plants at Garden Centres. It might not be the cheapest or most rewarding option but it is better than no home-grown veggies at all. And if you haven’t got around to preparing those veg beds, remember that you can plant a lot of veg out in big pots and tubs. Don’t think you’ve missed the boat – there’s still time to swim out to it!