The elderflower harvest at Belvoir Farm
Sparkling Elderflower is my summer tipple, so I couldn't resist the chance to head to the elderflower harvest at Belvoir Farm and experience the flower-to-bottle process for myself.
Deep in the Leicestershire countryside, tucked away among the wild hedgerows and unruly shrubs of the Vale of Belvoir, is family-run Belvoir Farm. Owned and run by Pev Manners, it was Pev’s mum who came up with the idea to make cordial over 40 years ago using the elderflower from their family garden. Fast forward and they’re still at it (with some extra help, of course) using the exact same recipe they started with all those years ago.
Today, Belvoir Farm produce around 30 varieties of soft, sparkling drinks and fruit cordials. They’ve also launched a range of non-alcoholic drinks plus, their newest range of nature-inspired botanical sodas; Floral Fizz, Bitter Orange Spritz and Spicy Ginger Fizz.
My day started picking elderflowers in the Belvoir Farm field on a gloriously sunny morning. Did you know that the elderflower harvest only runs for 6 weeks from mid-May to the end of June? It’s short but sweet and during this time, the local community and nature-lovers come together to pick the flowers from the farm’s own 60 acre organic and wild plantation and the surrounding hedgerows across Leicestershire.
I then went a tour of the plantation through the wild flowers and rushes and it was really interesting to see just how much they’re doing for the environment. They’ve installed three bee hives and planted two acres of pollen and nectar to supply food for insects such as butterflies, bees. This year they also planted a whopping 500 elder trees in their Jubilee Plantation. That deserves some serious brownie points!
After this, we then went on a short drive to the factory and kitchen where we had the chance to make our own sparkling drink.
Luckily, we had an easy recipe to follow but it isn’t always such a simple process when you’re starting from scratch; it took 18 months to perfect their new flavour that’s hitting shelves this autumn (a little insider scoop for you). That’s a lot of time, tasting and finessing going into each flavour but totally understandable, to get it just right.
After preparing our fizz, we headed off on a whistle-stop tour of the factory to the syrup room to see exactly how they create their ‘refreshingly real and reassuringly delicious’ cordial! It takes just seven days for the full flower to bottle process including soaking the flowers in syrup for 48 hours before being filtered to get rid of pollen.
What was really inspiring was just how sustainable the entire process is. Every step of the way they’re doing their bit for the environment giving them some serious bragging rights when it comes to eco creds; the pollen they extract from the elderflower is used by local farmers as pig food, the factory’s been kitted out with solar panels that generate up to one third of the company’s electricity needs and there’s more! They’ve started planting willow to use as fuel in the winter. How’s that for impressive?
With organic ingredients, attention to detail and sustainability at its core, it’s no wonder these drinks are so delicious. Salut!
To find out more about Belvoir Farm, visit www.belvoirfarm.co.uk.