The elder or Sambucus plant has so very much to offer us both in elderflowers and elderberries. Maximize all their uses with these easy ideas and tips.
Learn how to prepare elderberries as well as the elderflower benefits in my interview with Susannah Shmurak, blogger behind Healthy Green Savvy and author of Everything Elderberry: How to Forage, Cultivate, and Cook with this Amazing Natural Remedy.
How to Find Elder
Elder grows in most of the world. It can be foraged or cultivated.
Like any foraging adventure – make 100% sure of your elderberry identification before ingesting either the flower or the berries.
The flowers are generally in bloom in mid-summer, the berries ready to harvest in late summer, early fall. This will vary by location. Ask around in your area from other foragers or gardeners.
If foraging feels out of the realm of possibility and you don’t have it in your garden or know someone who does, it is possible to buy dried elderberries.
Elderflower too can be purchased dried but isn’t often as tasty as fresh.
When ingesting elder, we only want to use the flowers or berries. Do not ingest stem, roots, bark, or leaves.
While it is unlikely to kill someone, ingesting the bark or leaves can cause great stomach upset. Again, only the flowers and berries should be used internally.
There is a lot of myth and uncertainty around elderberries and their safety. In her book, Susannah goes into great depth around the history of elderberries, as well as examines scientific studies and more to assure us all that we can safely use the flowers and berries.
It is deeply fascinating and worth educating ourselves in order to not perpetuate falsehoods or ignore something useful to our homes because of some untruth passed on from someone else.
As with anything – talk to your health care provider before using any herbal remedy and avoid if allergic. Pregnant and nursing women should also avoid.
Elder in the Apothecary
Elderberries are known and revered for their ability to stimulate an immune response which helps us fight those colds and flus.
Elderflowers are often used to help cool fevers – it does this often by encouraging the body to sweat.
Topically, elderflowers are used on the skin to soothe and soften.
Elderberry syrup is easy to make and quite a tasty medicine to take at that. I make it and can it for easy shelf-stable storage.
Use elderberry syrup to make gummies in fun shapes and perhaps make the medicine go down easier.
A tincture made from the fresh or dried berries is also easy to make and store.
Make a tea or liquor from the elderflowers for easy use at home.
Elder as a Food Source
Elderberries seem to be an old-fashioned food source these days. We tend to opt for sweeter berries more often, but elderberries are indeed edible and delicious in a number of different ways.
Use them as part of a very simple make-ahead breakfast in these elderberry overnight oats.
Elderberry jelly is tasty and provides a bit of that immune boost to your morning toast too!
Combine elderberries with chocolate for a dessert torte you can feel good about serving.
Make a fizzy and refreshing drink with this elderflower kombucha.
Get creative and try using them in your favorite berry or floral recipes!
Do pick yourself up a copy of Everything Elderberry so that you can learn more and be inspired with its amazing collection of recipes and remedies.