Elderflowers give a magical springtime scent, bound together in confetti clouds of delicate white flowers, they never fail to lift the spirits
Introducing myself, SurO and the magic of elderflower
My name is Lucinda and I live with my family in rural Gascony in south west France. I am originally from London and spent most of my childhood holidays in Suffolk on my grandparents’ farm, where I spent many blissful times with extended family who lived locally. I got the travel bug when I was in my late teens, and having backpacked around Asia extensively, I realized that I knew very little of Europe. So, leaving London in a VW Campervan T2 I set off with my then partner and headed for northern Spain. I spent five years in Madrid, three years in Andalucia and then moved to Gascony in the south west of France.
How SurO began
The SurO story began in Suffolk during my childhood where I remember my aunt Sarah making the most delicious orange and lemon cordial, I later made it myself as a young woman. I was then introduced to elderflower cordial by my sister who had been given the recipe by her Swedish mother-in-law and the seed was sown. I was hooked and elderflower became my passion.
Over the years I have read so much about elder and have become fascinated by this magical plant that offers us so much in way of drinks, foods, medicines and even musical instruments and magic wands! (Harry Potter’s wand was made out of elder!)
Having moved from London to Spain and then to south west France, I was thrilled to find a large number of elder trees growing on the land of the old farm we had just bought.
From then on my kitchen would be a hub for making elderflower cordial in the spring and other products from the flowers and berries. Over the years increasing quantities of elderflower cordial were required to supply family and friends and my recipe was perfected! Practice makes perfect!
One of my greatest joys is when the first flowers appear sometime in April. The days start early with morning walks with the dogs, a soundtrack of birdsong and the first sunlight streaming through the trees whilst collecting the freshest and most fragrant flowers – then home for the preparation. All the flowers are removed from the stems and then infused in spring water with sugar, lemons and oranges – hand-made with love and inspired by nature.
Three years ago, having perfected my recipe, I decided to set up a small business selling my elderflower cordial in the local markets, at festivals and to private clients. This was a huge success and I realised how much people loved this deliciously refreshing drink.
So where to go from here? The next goal was set, I wanted to develop a finished drink that would be a delicious natural alternative to all the other non alcoholic drinks on the market, a drink that could also be used as a mixer with spirits for cocktails and could be sold to restaurants and bars, ready to drink.
SurO was born!
SurO is made from hand-picked elderflowers, infused with lemons, oranges and sugar to create a cordial, the base for this deliciously refreshing, non-alcoholic drink. It is free of additives and caffeine, making it a great drink for everyone. I suggest pouring it over ice, adding a slice of cucumber and a couple of mint leaves for a delicious non-alcoholic cocktail. If you prefer something a bit stronger, SurO is the perfect mixer to create your own original alcoholic cocktail using gin or vodka. Combine with white rum and lime juice for a Mojito SurO, or mix with white or rose wine to create a lightly alcoholic and very refreshing SurO Spritz.SurO is now widely available both in markets, shops, local restaurants and cocktail bars. Please see our stockists page for a list of places selling SurO.
I have recently planted my own elder orchard so that I can guarantee I have enough flowers and berries to fulfil my future dreams of a whole collection of products made from elderflowers and elderberries that are being developed as you read.
History and medicinal benefits of the elder tree
Elder refers to several different varieties of the Sambucus tree, which is a flowering plant belonging to the Adoxaceae family. The most common type is Sambucus nigra, also known as the European elderberry or black elder. The name Sambucus, more than likely comes from the Greek word Sambucca, the Sackbut, which was an ancient musical instrument. It was made from Elder because of the wood’s hardness, so not only did the plant heal the body, it also made music to heal the soul.
The black elder is not to be confused with the yéble elder or dwarf elder which ripens later and is toxic.
Throughout history this plant is attributed with treating over 70 different maladies from toothaches and fevers to cuts and burns, medicinal uses have been found to reach back as far as Ancient Egypt and span multiple countries and cultures. Hippocrates, who is often referred to as the ‘father of medicine,’ described the elder as his ‘medicine chest’ which he used to cure a wide array of ailments.
Elderberries are a low-calorie food packed with vitamin C, dietary fibre and antioxidants in the form phenolic acids, flavanols and anthocyanins. The flowers are particularly rich in flavanols and make used to treat fevers and a variety of other ailments. They are also used in to soften and heal skin.
Wood from the elder tree lends itself well to the making of whistles, pipes, chanters and other musical instruments, as the branches contain a soft pithy core which is easily removed to create hollow pipes of a pale, hard, easily-polished wood.
Elder trees were traditionally planted around dairies because it was thought to prevent the milk from turning. In medieval times it was believed that the most likely time to encounter fairies was on Midsummer’s Eve under an elder tree and that chopping down an elder tree could release a spirit called the Elder Mother, who would take her revenge unless you had asked her permission first and chanted her song. Therefore, elder was the wood of choice for making magic wands and flutes that were used to summon the spirits.
There is so much on the internet about Elder and its huge variety of uses but two books I would really like to recommend are Sous la Protection du Sureau by Bernard Bertrand (French) and Everything Elderberry by Susannah Shmurak (English) for further information on uses, history and recipies.