Back in Issue 11 of Bits and Pieces, Fishpool made mention of Elderflower Champagne—a cheap and easy-to-make glass of slightly alcoholic fizz.
Having quaffed several gallons since, the end of the elderflower season is no bad thing—work needs to be done and too many weeks have passed in an elder haze.
Fishpool, though, has still been considering the merits of the elder—and it truly is the tree that keeps giving. In autumn, we get the berries—which make a fantastic roach bait or a rather fine red wine. In winter, the dead twigs burn as well as any wood, and make perfect fuel for a Kelly Kettle (see Bits and Pieces Issue 6).
Furthermore, within a branch of an elder is the pith—an incredibly buoyant, if a little brittle, substance that is a traditional material for float making.
And finally there are the jelly ears (Auricularia auricula-judae), a fungus popular in Oriental cuisine that grows almost exclusively on elder. For a fisherman who forgot his sandwiches, jelly ears make a tasty snack, being safe to eat raw. (Obviously many fungi are poisonous—some deadly—so go careful!)
In short, this tree is a true fisherman’s friend. Let us all hail the elder!