The Elderberry is often over looked or worse, unknown to many. But these clusters of juicy berries were a staple of the American Indians, who called them a medicine chest. Even our pioneer grandparents knew of their powers to heal.
The small berries pack more vitiam A and C than blueberries and cranberries, making them a popular flu remedy by herbalists.
Almost every part of the plant, including the flowers, leaves, berries, bark and roots have been used in folk medicine, from teas to wine too.
I love the Elderberry for many reasons. They are easy to grow, can be harvested from the wild and they make a delicous pie or tasty flu syrup that any child won't mind taking. When foraging for the wild elderberry, make sure you only harvest the blue variety, the red can be poisonius in some areas. Always make certain of what you are picking and taking from the wild, a proper field guide for your area will help keep you safe.
The Elders beautiful white, flat umbels of flowers bloom in June and ripen in the summer, but you have to beat the birds to them, as they are a favorite treat for them too. Elderberry wine has a mild taste and sweet aroma, and made from many flower clusters, but worth the time and trouble. The berries when picked in clusters can be separted from the stems using a fork. Both flowers and berries can be dried for later use with great success.
I'm a jelly maker and when I can borrow some wild fruits from mother nature, I welcome the free goods. The most common use of the elderberries is for jelly making, so try this easy recipe if you find yourself with a bounty of elderberries.
3 pounds elderberries
5 cups sugar
1 box of pectin
Juice of 1 lemon
Heat the berries over a low heat till the juice starts to flow, simmer for 20 min. Strain the liquid through a double layer of cheese cloth. Mix the elderberry and lemon juice along with just enough water to make 3 cups of fluid. Add the pectin, bring to a boil and stir in the sugar. Bring the jelly to a full boil again for 2 min. Pour into hot sterilized jars and seal. Process in hot water bath for 30 min.
Another favorite is always pie, and the elderberries make a nice, double crusted pie for any occasion.
4 cups elderberries
1 cup sugar, (more if you have a sweet tooth)
2 Tbsp. cornstarch
1 Tbsp. lemon juice
1 Tbsp. butter
Mix the ingredients and pour them into the pie shell. Top with upper crust, cut vents. Bake in a 400 degree oven for 45 min., serve warm .
My own personal use of the mighty elderberry is to make this simple and delicious flu syrup, a must have to have on hand anytime of the year.
Elderberry Flu Syrup
1 cup fresh or 1/2 cup dried elderberries
3 cups water
1 cup honey ( I always use local honey)
Place berries in a saucepan and cover with water. Bring to a boil, simmer on low for 30-45 min. Smash the berries, strain the mixture through a strainer and add one cup of honey or adjust to taste. Bottle the syrup and store in refrigerator. Keeps for 2-3 months.
However you use them, just give the Elderberry a chance, they have been around for decades, with so many uses and cures, it's a shame not to get to know the Elderberry. Nature does supply us with what we need to survive, so why not sample some of the wild bounty that is closer than you think.