Pacific School of Herbal Medicine Masthead
sambucus mexicana

Mexican Elderberry
(Sambucus mexicana)

Recipe - Elderflower Sorbet

Probably the most elegant and outstandingly delicious wild food I know how to make. It takes a lot of work, and is worth it! Everyone I've served it to has loved it, the cooks and herbalists have been left speechless while eating this sorbet- a sure sign of success. Ladies, Gentlemen, and all those in between or other - Elderflower Sorbet...


Pick the flowering umbells of Black or Blue Elder when the flowers are fully open but none have gone brown. (Depending on where you live this may be late March in the low lands to mid September in the high mountains of California.) The umbells should be light, fluffy and vibrant. Their aroma will be full and light with delicate complexities, powdery floral notes and spicy tones. Do not use dried elder flowers in this recipe. Pick enough to loosely fill a large brown paper bag.

Many elder species have cyanide like compounds in the green umbell stems. These will add an unwanted bitter almond flavor and scent to the sorbet. To avoid this you will need to pick the individual flowers off the stem. This can take several hours to get enough to make one quart or liter of sorbet. It can be a tedious task, a meditational one or busy work for your hands while conversing with friends or watching hawks in the mountain sky.

Fill a quart jar with the flowers. Pack down gently. Set aside.

Mix the juice of two lemons, 1 quart of water and 1 and 1/2 cups sugar in a heavy sauce pan. Add the squeezed lemon rinds and bring to a boil. Be sure not to scorch the sides. Immediately turn down to a simmer. Cover and let simmer for 10 minutes.

Remove from heat and strain fluid into jar of elder flowers. Cover jar and let stand until room temperature, then refrigerate until cold. Line a bowl with clean muslin. Pour the contents of jar into muslin. Now gather up the edges of the muslin and twist the top so the flowers mush is on the bottom. Squeeze out as much of the elder flower syrup as possible.

Place the strained syrup in an ice cream maker and freeze according to manufacturer's instructions. Serve softly frozen. This sorbet is too good to dilute with most other flavors however the addition of a little bit of tequila when served is wonderful.