Elder Flower Syrup

People, it is elder flower season and that means that it’s time for make elder flower syrup!

If you’re unfamiliar with the elderberry tress it can seem like every other green tree, but when the first warm days of late Spring and early summer roll around, you just can’t miss them.  Elderberry trees grow like weeds here in Germany.  Everywhere I have been in the last few weeks I have seen at least one. They grow on the sides of roads, at thw edge of rivers, in the midst of forest, along sidewalks, in the middle of farm fields…the list goes on.  They can be spotted by their large white flower clusters, and when you get close by their intensely sweet floral scent.

Making a syrup with the flowers is pretty easy and not very labor intensive.  And, afterwards you are rewarded withe a unique syrup for making your own sodas and cocktails year round.  My favorite combination is elder flower syrup topped off with spritzy water with a squirt of fresh lemon juice and Granada-Mint leaves muddled it – and served super cold of course!

For the syrup you will need:

20 Elder Flower clusters, debugged

400g Sugar

500ml Water

1 organic Lemon, cut into rounds

To prepare:

Place all your cleaned elder flower clusters in a large wide-mouthed jar or a bowl (if you use a bowl you may need more lemon rounds).

In a saucepan, heat water and sugar over high heat, stiring frequently, until all sugar is dissolved and the mixture has reached 80C.  Pour the simple syrup over the flowers while it is still hot.

Using the lemon rounds, layer them above the flowers the keep the flowers submerged beneath the syrup.  Let the syrup sit in a cool dark place – unrefridgerated – for 24 hours.

Strain syrup through a fine sieve and discard the flowers and lemons.  Place thw syrup in a sauce pan and heat it to 80C before pouring it into prepared jars for canning.  Pour into the jars and close with a lid and allow to sit on your counter, undisturbed for 24 hours.  Alternatively, you can leave you syrup uncanned and can use it immediately.  Once opened, keep refrigerated.

Makes about 1 Liter.


Simple Breakfast Guacamole

On Sundays we go all out and have a nice big breakfast.  Usually it involves lots of bread from our favorite local baker – Bäckerei Wein Mühle, a colorful mixture of the hundreds of homemade jams that we have in our pantry, and a delicious vegan dark chocolate spread from dm.  However, every once in a while, I just don’t want to have a sweet breakfast, and crave the flavors of my childhood – creamy avocados and tangy citrus.

I grill my bread (Carrot-Pumpkin Seed Whole Wheat Bread) over an open flame on the stove top to give it a nice roasted flavor.  Then, I whip up a quick and simple guacamole that I like to top off with some freshly sliced tomatoes.  A delicious vegan breakfast with complex flavors that help start off a nice weekend morning.

Serves 1-2 / Prep Time 5 min / Total Time 5 min

1 Avocado
juice of 1/2 Lime (or Lemon)
1 big pinch of Salt
1 big pinch Garlic Powder
1 dash of ground Jalapeño

Mash avocado with a fork and mix in all other ingredients.  Taste and adjust flavors – every avocado is different!

Spread on freshly roasted bread and top with tomato slices seasoned with pepper, or with your favorite vegetables: cucumber slices, alfalfa sprouts, radishes….


Raising Avocados

When I first moved into my last apartment, there was just something missing.  It took me a little while to put my finger on it, but when I did, I realized that I was missing life in my new home.  One day, while eating lunch, I looked at the avocado pit I had just cut out of my creamy bright green avocado, and decided that I would plant it.  I needed plants – lots of plants to fill my new home and breath in some life.

I asked a friend how to go about planting it – I remembered something about toothpicks and a glass of water – but nothing ever came of those childhood experiments.  He told me to just push it half way into a pot of dirt and water it a lot.  A few weeks later, I was the proud owner of my first sprouting avocado pit.  I was hooked, and planted (almost) every avocado pit and seed I could get my hands on – grapefruit, lemon, and tangerine seeds and pineapple tops.

Avocado trees are really that simple:

Avocado pit + Soil + Water = Avocado Tree

My avocado trees are now 3 years old, and just keep growing and growing.  Last year, they really started to branch out sideways.  I have transplanted them once a year into a slightly larger pot with more soil, but other than being watered regularly, they don’t need much.  They like a nice warm sunny spot on a windowsill, but if you don’t get lots of sunshine, just pick the sunniest spot you’ve got and they will work with what they have.  And, when they are thirsty, they will let you know by wilting their leaves.  On hot sunny summer days, I bring them out a few hours at a time on my balcony and let them get some intense sun.

Ideally, I could one day plant my trees into the ground, but I live in a rather cold climate, and I don’t think my trees would like that.  Has anyone had any luck with transplanting their indoor avocado trees outside into the ground?