Usually at this time of year, we are making use of the abundance of elderflower across the estate to make cordials, syrups and sparkling wine. However, the cold, wet start to summer means that many of the hedgerow plants are around three weeks behind last year. So to quench our thirst for a foraged brew to share with friends, we’ve had to get creative using the mixture of wild plants that are ready.

Luckily, we have foraging expert Will McElhinney in the garden team, who has been working with Estate Head Chef Alan Stewart to pick the best selection. Will’s recommendations for reliable plants include lavender, violet, dandelion, chamomile, mallow, oxeye daisies, herbs, sorrel leaves, rose petals, rosehip, nettles, cherry blossom or apple blossom.

Will’s Top Foraging Tips

  • Seek permission from the land owner before foraging
  • Be sure to identify your ingredients – some poisonous plants can look similar to edible plants (e.g edible cow parsley vs. poisonous hemlock)
  • Minimise damage to the environment by taking only what you intend to consume, taking care not to trample and damage areas you collect from, and trying not to uproot plants, rather picking leaves or flowers with care.
  • Leave the majority behind – the wildlife depend on nature’s larder, too.
  • Unless dried or pickled correctly, foraged leaves and flowers tend not to keep for a long time in the fridge; so it’s best to use as soon as possible after picking.

Alan’s Floral Sparkling Wine Recipe

Try Alan’s recipe for a corking sparkling wine, made with foraged flowers or herbs. The basic recipe is a 2:1 ratio of water to sugar, so for a 3 litre jar you will need to use 1.5 litres of water to 750g of sugar. 

  • 1 x 3ltr kilner jar
  • 4 x 750ml kilner bottles
  • 1 x sieve
  • 1 x lemon
  • 750g sugar
  • 1 x packet Champagne yeast
  • Muslin cloth or towel
  • Foraged ingredients

·        Place your foraged ingredients into the jar, add one whole organic lemon, sliced.

·        Bring water and sugar solution to the boil, pour over your ingredients, allow to cool

·        Add 1 x packet Champagne yeast and leave to ferment for 5-7 days

·        Be careful not to seal the lid; instead, cover with a towel or muslin cloth as the fermentation will create gas which, if in a tightly sealed jar, can build up and explode.

·        Taste after 5 days. Once you are happy with the flavour, strain through the muslin cloth and bottle in sterilised bottles.

·        Once bottled, keep in the fridge to slow down any further fermentation, as again these could go pop!