I want to bring back an old family tradition and raise some elderberries. I remember their unusual taste in pies, jellies, and jams. Plus, I've never tried them for winemaking but I'd like to try. Elderberries are easy to grow or forage. They like wet areas, and full sun, so take a look at their range and see if they can fit into your landscaping or nearby foraging plans. They are easy to grow, and gorgeous landscape plants The huge showy white flowers–sort of like a cross between flat tiny-flowered flat hydrangea heads and Queen Anne's Lace on woddy stems, are followed by dark black berries
The plants are very hardy (we grew them in USDA Zones 4 & 5), and because they flower in late June, the crop is seldom damaged by late spring frost. (it is however, a favorite of deer and bears so keep that in mind.) The ones around here are flowering and some are showing fruit. That's not surprising, because although they will tolerate a variety of sooils, they like the slightly acidic soile we have in SC.
Elderberries contain more phosphorus and potassium than any other temperate fruit crop. The fruit is also rich in vitamin C. It has lots of medicial uses: Black elderberry has been used medicinally for hundreds of years. Some preliminary studies demonstrate that elderberry may have a measurable effect in treating the flu, alleviating allergies, and boosting overall respiratory health.
Elder is used in Traditional Chinese Medicine, dissolved in wine, for rheumatism and traumatic injury.
Plant elderberries in spring, as soon as possible after they arrive from the nursery to prevent plants from drying out. Space plants 6 to 10 feet apart. Elderberries are shallow rooted, so keep them well-watered during the first season. Plants are easy to propagate from hardwood cuttings taken when plants are dormant.
Here is a video about elderberries as part of a cute and informative series on You Tube called Eat the Weeds.
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We processed the above elderberries into three half-pint jars of tinctures, plus three pint and two half-pint jars of elderberry syrup. The syrup is great on ice cream, but we plan on making elderberry ice cream with our ice cream freezer.
Okay, it's not 'ours' but here's the recipe we use that fends off any and all colds and flus (so far):
- 10 oz dried elderberries
- 3 oz ginger root
- 2 oz osha root (lung tonic)*
- 2.8 oz Oregon grape root (dried)
- 2 c raw local honey
- 10 c water
- ¾ c brandy or rum
*[Becca] I do not usually add the osha as my kids hate the taste.
Combine all herbs and water in stainless steel pot, and simmer 45 minutes. Stir frequently.
Strain mixture through cheesecloth or clean cotton cloth into another stainless steel pot-squeeze out as much liquid as possible from the herb mix
Add honey and brandy to the strained liquid and warm over low heat, stirring frequently
Pour syrup into glass jars and label
Note- the alcohol is added as a preservative so the syrup does not need to be refrigerated, but it should be stored in a cool, dark place
Take 1 Tbsp up to 3 x daily during illness. I also take a dose as soon as I begin to feel just the hint of an illness and it usually stops it completely.
All ingredients can be ordered from http://www.mountainroseherbs.com/
This article was aimed a dog owners, but the implications for elderberry foragers should be obvious, Water Hemlock is HIGHLY poisonous, likes wet feet, and looks a lot like Elderberries. If you were planning on using elderberry flowers for something like a syrup, wine, or fritters, here's an article on how to tell them apart.
the short version:
This is ELDERBERRY: usually 5 LEAVES per stem, each leaf separate.
Really good for you.
Below is WATER HEMLOCK: 7 LEAVES per stem, double-leaves closest to main stalk
For a larger picture, These are elderberries: they grow on bushes.
This is water hemlock. Not a bush.
They can have as many as 11 leaflets, with 5-9 being the usual range. Look for the single-compound opposite (v. alternating) leaflets with finely serrated (v. coarse toothed) edges, and the flat-topped spray/umbel (v. firework) flower cluster form.
Excellent detailed comparison here:
We pressure-can the unsweetened juice in 4 ounce jars, for stronger medicinal properties and for those who need to avoid added sweeteners. The unsweetened juice can be added to a warm drink with honey for those whose palate can't handle the astringency (kids, for example.)
I credit elderberry juice with our household not having had a cold or the flu in the five years since we began using the stuff. It's one of our most important medicinal preparations.
Thanks for that, Poet. I'm not having too much luck with my elderberry bush (maybe because I keep trying to trim it into a tree), but Monty Python always makes me laugh.