ELDERFLOWERS give us one of the finest scents of the British countryside, along with ferns, new-mown hay, lavender and autumn leaves.

Unless you happen to be one of those unlucky people who find the smell repellent, in which case you should turn over the page and read something else, as these recipes are not for you.

Besides their fragrance and beauty, elderflowers have medicinal uses as skin salve and eye-lotion, as perfume, and, of course, for jelly and wine.

Pick the flowerheads when the flowers are fully open, when they resemble great platters of snowflakes, and when there has been no rain for a day or two. Avoid any which host gatherings of the flies which love them, or worse: I have found large slugs contentedly absorbing the nectar on some low-growing flowerheads. At home, shake off any remaining insects and pick the flowers off the stalks. One way of doing this is to rake the petals off the stems with a long-tined fork, but you can often just shake them vigorously and they come off. Make sure no stems or leaves get into your brew as they are mildly poisonous.

Beatrice Huish's Skin Salve
Named for Barrie de Lara's grandmother, who taught him how to make it, this salve is slightly magical, as the ointment is produced by the action of sunlight.

Strip the petals off six or seven flowering heads into a clean, dry jam jar with a lid. Close tightly and leave in direct sunlight, turning from time to time, for three or four months. By the end of the summer the flowers will have melted down into a sticky residue. Pass this through a fine sieve or muslin and add a tablespoonful of sweet almond oil. Mix well. Put into a clean jar and cork.

It is very effective for minor burns, or as a softening hand cream.