The elderberry Sambucus canadensis and sambucus nigra, are important plants, with highly nutritious berries and flowers great for boosting the immune system and so much more. The canadensis, is a native North American shrub, growing wild in the northeast and northwestern states. The ripened berries are a deep purple-tinged black, held clustered by a lovely contrasting violet colored stem.
The elderberry shrub is increasingly cultivated as edible hedges,1)https://gardensall.com/edible-hedges-for-privacy-and-food/. Landscaped into permaculture yards as a common ornamental shrub, elderberry brings wonderful nutritional and medicinal value from the berries and flowers, commonly called elderflower.
Where to Buy Elderberries
Now if you don’t have elderberries in your yard or growing wild in your area, don’t worry. You can buy elderberry plants, berries and flowers online.
We got our Elderberry plants from a local nursery, however, if you can’t find them at yours, you can order them online:
Pictured below are a few of our elderberries from this year’s harvest. They ripen in July and August in zone 7b, and the flowers continue blooming during the first ripening of berries, but by late July and August, it’s just berries, and lots of them!
As you can see from our photo here, the elderberries are tiny, so it takes some time to cull them from the stems. The fastest way to get them off the stems is to freeze them, on the stem. Once they’re frozen, it’s easier to roll them off the stems without damaging the tender berries.
Do NOT Eat the Stems and Roots
The stems, leaves and roots of the Black Elder, sambucus nigra, are all poisonous to humans, as are the seeds of the red elderberries if eaten raw. They contain a cyanide-inducing glycoside, and should never be consumed raw. Some say the young shoots are edible, but unless you’re dying of starvation, it’s not worth the risk consuming potentially toxic portions.
I find it interesting that the majority of the plant can be toxic, and yet the berries are highly nutritious, but that’s the sums up the elderberry plant.
The small black berries of the sambucus canadensis are picked and eaten raw or dried and should never be picked and eaten green. The red elderberries should not be eaten raw either, unless you’re knowledgeable on how to consume them and separate out the cyanide laced seeds. These are best used for the juice alone, and/or cooked, where the cooking apparently burns of the toxicity content of the berries.2)
Many people say they’ve eaten the elderberry fruits and seeds all their lives with no ill effect. However, it’s unclear which varieties they’re speaking to, so it’s best to be safe than sorry. If you plan to consume the elderberry fruit without separating it from the seed, consult with experts first, such as your local ag extension office to be sure you’re eating the safe variety and for specific in formation on how to prepare them.
We eat our sambucus canadensis elderberries, but not all elderberries are safe to eat.
Meanwhile, if you do hiking or camping and are into survival foods in the wild, elderberry is a good one to know and be able to identify.
There are many health benefits to elderberries, so let’s review those next. If you don’t have fresh elderberries on hand, you can still make your own concoctions with dried elderberries.
Nutrient dense elderberries from the honeysuckle family, are considered a superfood like blueberries, due to their high concentration of antioxidants.
Elderberries contain more vitamin C than oranges or tomatoes, and three times the protein of blueberries.
They also have beneficial amounts of Vitamin A, calcium, thiamine and niacin.
One cup of elderberries contains:
- 87 percent of recommended intake for vitamin C
- 17 percent of vitamin A
- 13 percent of iron
- 6 percent of calcium
- 17 percent of vitamin B6
- 12 percent of potassium
- 7 percent of vitamin B1
Health Benefits of Elderberries
(NOTE: Health benefits of elderflowers are covered further below).
Excerpted from OrganicFacts.net
- Digestive Health – High in fiber
- Cardiovascular Protection – The high fiber and potassium help eliminate cholesterol
- Respiratory Health – expectorant, plus soothes inflammation and irritation
- Immune System Health – antibacterial, anti-infectious, antioxidant and immune strengthening
- Diabetes Aid – regulates insulin and glucose levels
- Inflammation – anti-inflammatory, helping to alleviate painful joints and muscle soreness
- Bones – high essential minerals strengthen bones and induce new bone tissue
- Skin – bioflavonoids and antioxidants plus high vitamin A for lessening wrinkles and age spots
Next page: a video showing how to identify, pick and harvest elderberries, followed by recipes for elderberry syrup.
Identifying, Harvesting, Eating and Using Elderberries
By Green Deane of EatTheWeeds.com 5)
Green Deane talks about both black and red elderberries, how to identify, harvest and eat them and also what to avoid.
This is important to help be sure you are safe when identifying elderberry in the wild, so tune in to see which elderberries you can eat and which you should definitely avoid.
Once you’ve got fresh berries, you’ll be wanting to find recipes for them, so check the next page to see what’s in store for you.
Which Elderberries Can You Eat?
WARNING: Do not eat any of the elderberry wood, leaves or green berries, and don’t eat the seeds of the red elderberries.5)
For more on growing elderberries, for yourself or for a business, you may enjoy this article and interview with Roger Lendhardt of Norm’s Elderberry Farm.
One of our favorite traditional and medicinal herbal experts is Rosemary Gladstar. In this video, Rosemary gives a great summary of all things elderberry.
In my family, we have three favorite ways to enjoy elderberries.
Next are a few recipes to get your taste buds primed and ready. After that, we have more information on the amazing elderflowers, which are just as phenomenal
learn about the amazing and healing properties of elderflowers after the recipes.
Now for some recipes using elderberries! Yum!!
Recipe from Food.com
- 4 cups elderberries
- 11⁄4 cups sugar
- 6 Tablespoons flour (we use gluten free flour)
- 2 Tablespoons lemon juice
- 1⁄2 teaspoon cinnamon
- 2 Tablespoons butter
- pastry for a double-crust 9-inch pie (we use gluten free pie crusts)
- Combine berries, sugar, flour, and lemon juice in a medium sauce pan.
- Heat mixture until it just starts to boil, stirring occassionaly.
- Remove from heat and let cool for 15 minutes.
- Preheat oven to 425 degrees Fahrenheit.
- Spread bottom crust in a 9 inch pie pan.
- Spread berry mixture in pie shell.
- Sprinkle cinnamon on top.
- Dot butter on top.
- Put top crust on and seal edges.
- Poke several vent holes in top crust.
- Bake at 425 degrees Fahrenheit for 10 minutes. Turn oven down to 350 degrees Fahrenheit, leaving pie in oven, and bake for 30 minutes longer.
Next: Elderberry Dumplings recipe.
Recipe from MotherEarthNews.com
2 cups berries
3/4 cup sugar (to avoid refined sugar, we substitute with half as much maple syrup, honey)
1 Tbs flour (we use gluten free flour)
2 Tbs lemon juice
3/4 cup water
Combine all the ingredients, heat gently, and keep them warm while you make the dumplings.
3/4 cup flour, sifted (we use gluten free flour)
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 cup sugar
1/4 cup lemon peel, grated
1/4 cup milk
Add the other dry ingredients to the sifted and measured flour. Mix the milk and the egg in a small bowl and stir them into the flour combination until the dough is just blended. Now pour the hot berry mixture into a casserole and drop in small spoonfuls of the dumpling batter. Bake the dish at 400 degrees Fahrenheit for 25 to 30 minutes until the pastry balls are lightly browned. Serve the dessert warm with cream or vanilla ice cream.
Recipe from Mother Earth News5)http://www.motherearthnews.com/real-food/elderberry-recipes-zmaz73jazraw.aspx?PageId=2#axzz3NJN4DHSv
Next: The ever popular elderberry syrup recipe!
1/2 cup dried or 1 cup fresh Elder Berries
3 cups filtered water
2 -3 cloves
1 cinnamon stick
Optional: 1 slice of fresh ginger or a pinch of dried ginger
After the syrup has cooled, add 1 cup local, natural, unfiltered honey.
See more at the source of this recipe:
Back to Basics Gal
You’ll find other helpful videos on YouTube, but here are a few to get you started.
How to Make Elderberry Syrup
A mouthwatering video on how to make Elderberry syrup, that makes you want to try some right away! A wonderful tasting syrup that has been used over the years as a treatment for cold and flu, and as a preventative.
If you don’t have access to fresh elderberries, you can actually use dried elderberries, available from Amazon.
Elderflower Blossoms – Identifying, Harvesting, Drying and Preparing Elderberry Flowers
Did you know that the flavor from elderflowers actually comes from the pollen in the elderflowers?
I’m conflicted about elderflower tea. My dilemma is that the flowers make lovely tea and other recipes, but if we harvest the flowers that prevents that cluster from becoming berries. However, there are many reasons to also harvest the flowers.
Beyond delectable edibles that can be made, elderflowers are also very nutritious.
Nutritional Benefits of Elderflowers
Elderflowers are beautiful, layered lacy sprays of cream colored flowers, that pack as much a nutritional punch as the elderberries.
Health Benefits of Elderberry Flowers
- Analgesic – Triterpenoids
- Antiviral – quercetin, isoquercitrin and anthocyanins
- Anti-inflammatory – Triterpenoids6)
- Anti-oxidant – bioflavonoids, flavones and flavonols
- Respiratory issues, such as cold and flu
- Alleviates allergies – contains chlorogenic acids, such as cinnamic acid
- Reduces pain and swelling associated with arthritis (externally applied)
- Used to stop bleeding
- Antiseptic as a mouthwash and gargle
- Elderflower reduces blood sugar levels
- Effective at killing MSRA and other common hospital pathogens
- Anti-cancerous – Triterpenoids
That’s quite an amazing list!!
How to Take Elderflower
Elderflowers can be consumed raw and fresh in food or tea or by itself, or dried for food storage and later use. Always avoid consuming the leaves, twigs, and roots as they’re are toxic and can lead to the build up of poisonous cyanide in the body.
All but the black elderberries contain cyanide and should not be consumed raw. Some people say they consume the black variety of elderberries raw and other say it should be cooked prior to avoid nausea and other stomach and intestinal problems.
Elderflower supplements are available alone or in combination with other herbs. Supplements can be found as dried and cut flowers, in tea bags, in tinctures and concentrates, and in pills and capsules.
Tune into this brief video for more on how to identify harvest and use Elderflowers, fresh or dried.
Let’s get pickin’!
Disclaimer: No information on this website is intended to be or replace medical advice. This information is from a combination of folklore and traditional remedies, researched information and even studies, however, no such compilation of information here can be construed as medical advice. Always use good judgement and seek proper medical attention and guidance.
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