We don’t eat a lot of fried food, and I’ve never been highly motivated to try any kind of fritters. But I’m working to expand my repertoire of recipes so I decided to try elderflower fritters this spring.
I turned to my favorite foraging cookbook, Marie Viljoen’s Forage, Harvest, Feast, and was dismayed to find her recipe uses wheat flour. I reached for my favorite vegetable cookbook, Six Seasons by Joshua McFadden – and he calls for wheat flour and cornstarch. Since I avoid eating grains wherever possible, I decided to
make up develop my own. (Note that while this recipe is paleo, it is absolutely NOT low carb like many of the ones I share.)
I was a bit late on the elderflower harvest (I’ve been late with almost all wild foods this year), but there were enough flowers left for a decent attempt.
Following Viljoen’s advice, I did not wash the flowers. Unfortunately we’d experienced several days of rain before this, so nature had washed them for me! Pro tip – you will NOT get all the bugs out of the flowers, unless you shake them so hard the petals fall off. Think of it as extra protein!
When choosing a pan to fry the flowers, look for one with steep sides to contain any splatter that may occur. I used a wok. Any kind of oil with a high smoke point will work for frying – I opted for avocado oil because it is what I had available, and it has a relatively neutral flavor.
Also, if the battered umbels touch while they are in the oil, you will end up with one large, solid mass of fried flowers because they WILL stick together.
In the interest of full transparency: I do not really understand the club soda / sparkling water ingredient in the recipe. All the recipes I consulted had something similar, so I left it in. I “get” that the bubbles in the water helps make the batter light and fluffy, BUT. All those bubbles dissipate as you a) whisk the water into the batter and b) the batter sits around between batches of fried flowers. If someone can explain this to me, I’d love to hear from you in the comments!
When enjoying your fritters, I recommend avoiding the larger / uncooked green stems. Elderberry shrub stems and branches are toxic, and while heat breaks down the chemicals, I only trust the smallest stems that were actually submerged in the batter and oil.
Elderflower fritters has definitely been one of my foraged food successes – husband and youngest child alike both ate hearty servings of the treat. (The older teen wouldn’t touch it for anything.) The teen who did eat the fritter sprinkled it with powdered sugar and honey, and then proceeded to eat to the point of an upset tummy!
I ate mine with just a drizzle of lemon juice. Yes, I know there are paleo powdered sugar options out there, but I don’t care for overly sweet flavors anyway. It tasted like … well, fried food. Like tempura at a Japanese restaurant. I couldn’t even tell for certain that was elderflower in the middle of all that fried crunchiness. Maybe the rain had washed away some key aspect of the flavor; I guess I’ll find out when I try again next year! (Maybe I will include elderflower cordial in the ingredients next time, as in Viljoen’s recipe.)
This batter is definitely a “keeper” though, and will be my go-to for frying in the future. … for all that frying that I (don’t) do!
(And yes, I would love to find a more sustainable / local alternative for both avocado oil and tapioca flour! But until that time, the grocery store will play a significant role in this recipe!)
As spring draws to a close in the northern hemisphere, what foraged foods are you finding and enjoying?
- 1 c tapioca flour
- 1/8 tsp salt
- 1 egg white
- about 1 c ice cold sparkling water, club soda or seltzer water
- 8 – 10 elderflower umbels
- oil for frying
- powdered sugar, optional
- sliced lemon, optional
- honey, optional
- Heat the oil in the pan. The oil should be deep enough to submerge the flower umbels. While the oil is heating, prepare the batter.
- Whisk the tapioca flour and salt together. Mix in egg white, then slowly whisk in enough water to create a thin batter. Drip a bit of batter in the oil to see if it is hot enough – it should bubble immediately and float.
- Dredge the flowers in the batter, holding the stem like a handle. Put the battered flowers in the hot oil, making sure not to crowd the pan.
- Consider keeping the batter chilled in between dredging, since the flowers take up so much room in the pan. Re-whisk the batter before the next batch of umbels.
- After the flowers have fried for about four minutes – or until the batter is golden brown – use a wood chopstick through the stems to lift them out of the hot oil. Set the fritters on a towel-lined plate while you fry subsequent batches.
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