The internet is full of stories which feature the adventures of the modern forager. Foraging used to be an activity done by herbalists and elusive mushroom hunters who sold their finds to fancy restaurants. We recently set off foraging with Oisin Davis of South William Street’s Damson Diner, a man who has been known to use locally growing wild produce to infuse alcohol concoctions. Foraging refers to finding your food growing naturally, not harvesting food you’ve cultivated. We cycled down to Merrion Square, Dublin 2 where Oisin had seen Elderflower earlier that day. Elder can be found everywhere from hedgerows to graveyards and blossoms in May. The flowers cleanse the body and the berries are known to boost immunity. Carrier bags in hand he enlightened us on some of the unwritten rules of urban foraging. The first rule, never take too many elderflower heads from the one tree, around 70% of one is fine. The next, is to give the head a good sniff, an aroma of cats piss is actually OK. The third rule is to try and cut off the heads that are mostly flower - some have not yet bloomed and are therefore not much use. We took some of Oisin’s recipes and made our own Elderflower Cordial, which was great with Whiskey and Elderflower Champagne, which was lively but surprisingly good. Oisin’s recipe for Elderflower Champagne can be found below. Be sure to check out Damson Diner, South William Street for his infamous alcohol infusions.
Oisin’s Elderflower Cordial
1. Shake the elderflowers to expel any lingering insects, and then place in a large bowl.
2. Put the sugar into a pan with the water and bring up to the boil, stirring until the sugar has completely dissolved.
3. While the sugar syrup is heating, pare the zest of the lemons off in wide strips and toss into the bowl with the elderflowers. Slice the lemons, discard the ends, and add the slices to the bowl. Pour over the boiling syrup, and then stir in the citric acid. Cover with a cloth and then leave at room temperature for 24 hours.
4. Next day, strain the cordial through a sieve lined with muslin (or a new j-cloth rinsed out in boiling water), and pour into thoroughly cleaned glass or plastic bottles. Screw on the lids and pop into the cupboard ready to use.