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Mid-August sees the woodlands and hedgerows full of bright black or red elderberries, shrubs full of great clusters of ripe fruits waiting to be picked. The shrubs grow quickly and develop large dark-green leaves and small white flowers.

Red Elderberries
Through winter the leaves emit a foul smell and the branches are straggly and unattractive but completely transforms itself by spring with masses of sweet-scented blossoms.

There are different varieties, American, Dwarf, Common and Golden elder all produce shiny black fruit whilst the less common red berried elder is most likely to be found in Northern America and Scotland.

Known as a cure for hay fever, gout and rheumatism the berries are known to be sweat inducing with a laxative effect, I suppose you cannot have one without the other!

Warning: elderberries, black or red should not be eaten raw, some varieties contain poisonous seeds and must be cooked first. Any cordial or juice must be made with the cooked fruit.

Elderberry and Lemon Thyme Jelly

1kg/2lb 4oz Elderberries
2 lemons
Small bunch of fresh lemon thyme
Pinch of dried chilli
White Sugar

Wash the berries and remove any stalks, place the berries along with most of the thyme into a pan with the juice of the lemons. Cook slowly until soft and pour into a jelly bag set over a bowl and leave to drip through overnight. Measure the cold juice and for every 600ml take 350g of warm sugar, pour all into a clean pan and bring to the boil, stirring regularly until setting point is reached. Add a few small thyme leaves and pot into sterilized jars when cool.

Content and picture Miles Collins