Elderflower harvest time at Belvoir Fruit Farms

The unseasonably cold (and downright miserable) early summer weather put a dampener not just on my spirits but on the sap and joie de vivre of the flowers and trees in the garden and hedgerows, too. Of course everything will catch up, it always does, but the sudden spurt in growth is more noticeable by the ‘on hold’ cold snap that preceded it.

The elderflower is now in glorious bloom. One of my favourite hedgerow plants, a native to Britain and long regarded as sacred, reminded me of a visit to Belvoir Fruit Farms last year and a guided tour by the charming owner and MD, Pev Manners.

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Nestling in the beautiful vale of Belvoir (pronounced ‘Beaver’ locally) Belvoir is of course Norman for ‘beautiful view’. Belvoir Fruit Farms has been producing cordials and presses since 1984, pressing fresh fruit and infusing flowers with spring water. But it was the elderflower that was in production when I visited and the perfume as I entered the (new) factory was wonderful – and it was head and shoulders above any other food and drink factory I have visited! An elderflower and organic ginger version was also being infused. Originally all the elderflowers were handpicked from bushes growing around Lord and Lady John Manners garden and the whole family pitched in to produce the first 88 cases, which Lord John loaded into the back of his car to drive around local farm shops persuading them to buy a case or two.

DSC_9623Demand now is so high that the local community is called on to help with the picking. Locals are invited to harvest only the freshest flowers that must be fully open, heavy with pollen and picked on a warm, sunny day to preserve the maximum floral taste. From picking to vat can take no longer than three hours.

Today this product is just one of 40 in the Belvoir Fruit Farms portfolio, many of which have won multiple awards and are available in over 28 countries worldwide.

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Picking starts on May 31 and lasts as long as the flowers do. Belvoir Fruit Farms pays pickers £2 per kilo provided the flowers are fresh and contain no stalks. They must be delivered on the same day – they go brown very quickly and are then unusable. As you would expect, Belvoir Fruit Farms expect elderflower to be picked responsibly and the countryside code is published on its website, along with times when flowers can be delivered.

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All pictures copyright of Robin Stewart

So if a gentle ramble in the Vale of Belvoir on a warm, sunny, early summer afternoon appeals, remember to take scissors and a few black bin liners!

Robin Stewart
The author:

Robin teaches cookery in his own small school, photographs anything to do with food, cycles, goes fishing and has two grown up children. He lives in Oakham.