Pickers wanted to help with wild elderflower harvest

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Belvour Fruit Farms is launching an urgent appeal for people to pick wild elderflower.

The cold weather has delayed the traditional harvest and it will also mean it is around two weeks shorter, giving only four weeks to get the flowers in.

To satisfy the growing demand for their traditional elderflower drinks, Belvoir requires in excess of 50 tonnes of elderflowers or over three million elderflower heads but with the shorter season giving the Belvoir team less time to gather in the frothy, cream abundance it could be a tall order without the help of local people.

Keith Challen, Farm Manager for Belvoir Fruit Farms, said: “Because of the cold, wet spring the elders are about a month behind their expected development. This means the six week harvest will start later than usual, probably in mid June and will only last for a short four week period giving us less time to bring in the blossoms.

“In addition, although we have planted two new elder orchards, which are developing nicely, we still need more flowers. It is therefore imperative that we get as much help as possible to pick wild growing elderflowers to supplement our own harvested from the Belvoir farm and to make the most of the short window of opportunity we have.”

Belvoir has traditionally encouraged people from Lincolnshire, Leicestershire and Nottinghamshire to participate in the bucolic act of hand picking the elderflowers. This year they are expanding their catchment area to include Cambridgeshire and South Yorkshire.

Pev Manners, MD of Belvoir, added: “Helping with the elderflower harvest is a wonderful opportunity to take part in an historic tradition. People return to the farm year after year to meet new friends, see old ones and enjoy being in touch with nature. This year we really do need as many people as possible to help pick.

“Although they are welcome to help harvest our 70 acres of organic elderflowers, the elder itself occurs naturally in hedgerows all over the area and it is the blossoms from these plants that we are particularly keen to gather in.”

Belvoir offers pickers £2 cash per kilo and an experienced picker can harvest up to 45 kilos of elderflowers a day. It’s simple to do too – there’s no need for expensive or specialist equipment - all that’s required is a bin bag to put the flower heads in.

Belvoir can only accept flowers at their freshest best and so the blossoms have to have been picked that day and should not have any stalks.

For the duration of the elderflower season, Belvoir Fruit Farms itself is open from noon until 6.30pm, seven days a week to make it as easy as possible for pickers to bring their blossomy booty to the weighing point located on Redmile Lane near Belvoir Castle.

However, for the first time Belvoir will also be accepting elderflower collections at Sacrewell Farm Centre just off the A47 near Peterborough from June 10 onwards between 3.30pm – 5pm.

Pev and his dedicated team at Belvoir would just urge that anyone who does decide to help harvest the elderflowers should be careful not to trespass and please always respect the countryside code.

The Belvoir Elderflower cordial all started in the family kitchen where as a young boy Pev and his sisters would help their mother, Mary Manners, infuse the blossoms they picked from wild elderflower bushes around the family farm. The recipe is said to have been given to Mary by family friend, Lady Astor of Cliveden.

Initially it was drunk just by friends of the Manners family but it soon proved so popular that they decided to make it more widely available and in 1984 Belvoir Fruit Farms became the first commercial producer of Elderflower cordial in the UK. Today all Belvoir’s products are still hand-made on the farm using only natural ingredients and containing no preservatives or additives.

As well as being the plant to trumpet the arrival of summer, the Elder was viewed as a protective tree and growing it outside your door was believed to keep evil spirits from entering the house. However, it was also said that washing her face in dew gathered from elderflowers was believed to enhance and preserve a woman’s youthful beauty – surely another reason to get there early to start picking!