The 24th of June, Midsummer’s Day, is the perfect time to celebrate the elder tree. According to folklore you may encounter the fairy King and Queen and their retinue if you loiter by an elder on Midsummer’s Eve. The smell of its leaves is reputed to be mildly narcotic so I wonder if it was the inspiration for Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream, in which the young lovers and a travelling theatre troupe have a fairly trippy night in a forest along with Oberon and Titania, King and Queen of the fairies.
If you don't have access to your own elderflowers to make cordial you can always use shop-bought cordial in the mocktail and cake recipes below. You will need the real blossoms for the elderflower fritters however so keep an eye out on footpaths and in hedgerows near you for the lacey, flat capped heads of tiny starry flowers.
One of my favourite things about going on holiday is buying local produce, especially food. There are a myriad different things to try at farmer's markets, farmshops and food festivals throughout the region, but for now I want to focus on some fantastic local produce available right now within walking distance of Blackdown Yurts.
Mia and I took the dog on a little walk to Henland, which is on the way to Orway, to buy some asparagus and duck eggs from farmers Marcus and Liz. Henland is really only two farms, Upper and Lower (where Liz and Marcus farm), and it is an out of the way little place, tucked under the main escarpment of Blackborough, with beautiful views out across the gently undulating green countryside.
Henland is a bit of an enigma - local lore has it that a thousand years ago Alfred the Great gave the tithes of Henland over to the monks of Cullompton in payment for their prayers for the souls of men lost in battle against the Danes. Henland continued to be the responsibility of the Vicars of Cullompton after the reformation so any Henland occupants wishing to marry had to travel an additional three miles to Cullompton, rather than their nearest church at Kentisbeare, to have their banns read. Not much of a big deal now in the age of motor transport as we can whizz to Cullompton in under 15 minutes, but back when people walked or rode horses everywhere it would have been! (source: Under the Blackdowns by L C E Chalk).