The Elder in History, Myth and Cookery


ISBN-10 1-903018-31-5

ISBN-13 978-1-903018-31-6

Published Dec 2004

140 pages; 186×139 mm; paperback; b&w illustrations

Price £9.99



Ria Loohuizen

The Elder

in History, Myth and Cookery

The elder is a tree or bush (or even weed) for which humanity has found a use for each and every part: the leaf, the bark, the wood or branch, the flower and, finally, the berry or fruit. Some of these functions, or associations, are both mythic and grounded in superstition: that the elder encourages the fertility of cattle for instance; or its relation to witchcraft; or is place in Celtic folklore. Others are more nearly medicinal: it was an essential to classical and medieval physicians. And, of course, it may be eaten and drunk. The flowers lend their fragrance to gooseberries, or are sensational as a spring fritter. The berries are wonderful as ice cream, or as wine.

Ria Loohuizen has pursued the elder into every corner of history, literature and kitchen usefulness. She claims this is only the second book on the tree (the first being published in 1644). In an evocative text, she explores its meaning to early physicians, its place in mythology and folklore, its occurrence in literature (Jane Austen, Thomas Hardy, etc.) and gives maximum exposure to recipes for medicaments as well as delicious sweet dishes and drinks.

Here you may find how to make elder ointments or lotions to ward off rheumatism as well as chilblains. And you will read detailed instructions for elderflower champagne, or elderflower syrup, or elderberry wine. Then there are recipes for tarts, fools, jams, jellies, fritters, glazes and vinegars as well as some details about the Jew’s Ear mushroom which grows only on the elder tree.

This book was first published in Holland in 2002. It has been translated by the author.


Ria Loohuizen has lived in America and Spain and is now living in Holland. She is a translator of prose and poetry from English and Spanish as well as a published author of cookery books about the chestnut, wild mushrooms, the fig and the quince.

A PDF of the preliminaries, the opening remarks on the elder, a few recipes, and the index