Tag Archives: cordial

gorse flowers

Gorse Flowers

The bright yellow flowers of gorse bushes are very distinctive and easy to identify. You may not realise the flowers are edible and used in a range of edible or medicinal recipes. The gorse is evergreen and flowers pretty much all year but flowers have the strongest flavour in springtime. The latin name for gorse is Ulex europaeus.

The flowers are edible but .. beware.. gorse has big thorns so wear thick gloves and be very careful when picking!

I took this picture on the Anglesey coast in mid-November.

gorse flowersGorse flowers have a very slight flavour of coconut and make a lovely wine or cordial. If you want to have a go at making  your own cordial there is a simple gorse cordial recipe on the Eat Weeds website.

Some of you may know that Gorse is one of the Bach Flower Remedies and it is used for hopelessness and despair. It can be especially helpful when someone has been ill for some time and they feel there is no hope of recovery. Gorse helps to see things from a different perspective and gives hope for a more positive outcome.


Meadowsweet flowers on railway embankmant

Meadowsweet – cordial and medicine

Meadowsweet is a common flower which grows to about 4 feet high and has very distinctive fluffy cream flowers.  The latin name is Filipendula ulmaria or may be in older books as Spiraea ulmaria. It is usually found in wet or boggy ground in places like edges of fields,  grass verges, canal or riverbanks or railway embankments.

The scent of flowers is a bit like honey with a hint of marzipan. The leaves have tiny leaves between the larger ones and when scrunched up give off a smell a bit like old fashioned antiseptic.


In traditional herbalism meadowsweet has a wide range of uses for digestive troubles, headaches and pain and can be used as a tea – just add a teaspoon of dried or fresh flowers to a cup of hot water and leave to brew for about 5 minutes. Meadowsweet contains salicylic acid which is what aspirin was originally synthesised from.

However if you are pregnant, asthmatic, taking warfarin or have a known allergy to aspiring then it is best avoided.

Napiers Herbalists page on meadowsweet says :-

As with all medicines, this one isn’t always going to be suitable for everyone; people with known allergy or intolerance in relation to aspirin should be cautious when trying this herb as should those suffering from asthma. Salicylic acid also helps to reduce platelet activity in the blood, which is good news in terms of avoiding heart attacks and strokes, but to be avoided if taking drugs such as warfarin or heparin and for the few days immediately prior to any kind of surgery. It should also be avoided in pregnancy.

You would have to take a lot of Meadowsweet to amount to the equivalent of a tablet; on the other hand, due to its soothing, anti-inflammatory effects it is a gentle but powerful medicine and works without the caustic side-effects of its pharmaceutical cousin.

In this short video Monica Wilde of Napiers the Herbalists talks about  how to identify meadowsweet and its historic and medicinal uses.

In this next video Monica shows you how to make Meadowsweet Cordial. Use about 250g of sugar and 1 litre of water for 30-40 heads of open flowers.

Monica also has an excellent wild food and medicine blog Wilde in the Woods with loads of useful recipes, great photos and clear instructions. She also tweets as @monicawilde.

Elderflower Sorbet

Elderflowers are a distinctive summer sight and many people make a cordial from the flowers – this is a refreshing sorbet which is very simple to make. There are many recipes out there for elderflower cordial – here is one from my chum Rachel the Vagabond Baker – Summer in a Bottle. Her blog is a fantastic mix of great recipes, photos and her extensive travels so well worth a look anyway!

Elder has very distinctive fragrant flowers and most people are able to confidently identify them but here are some pictures just in case you aren’t sure.

WP_20140531_004[1]I love the tenactity of elder and the fact it grows everywhere. I spotted this growing very happily in a drain cover!


Elderflower Sorbet

10 elderflower heads (can leave them on the stalks)

1 litre water

750g sugar

2 lemons juice and zest

Dissolve the sugar in the water over a low heat. Add elderflowers and lemon juice and zest. Stir, cover and leave overnight then strain through muslin or a fine sieve.

Pour the strained elderflower liquid into a plastic tub with a lid and put in the freezer for 2 hours. Remove and whisk vigorously with a fork or hand whisk. Return to freezer and whisk again after an hour. Return again to freezer and whisk once more after another hour. By now it should look like sorbet but if it still is a bit mushy just keep freezing and whisking until it does.

Serve as it is or with raspberries or mint leaves and enjoy!

This can be made anytime of the year by cheating and using elderflower cordial. 500ml cordial, 1 litre water and 400g sugar. Dissolve sugar in water over a low heat, remove from heat and add cordial and cool. Follow freezing instructions as above.


My elderflower sorbet was featured in a book Recipes Down the Line which is a collection of recipes from a wide range of farmers, food producers, cafés, restaurants and local people based along the route of the Settle-Carlise Railway. It is available online or can be bought from stations along the railway or Tourist Information offices.