Friday, February 27, 2009

Elderberry Bushes

I have a few Elderberry bushes that are growing down
at the edge of my yard near the woods.
In late Spring the bushes get full of the prettiest l clusters
of little white blooms.
In the late Summer it gets clusters of berries that turn from
green to dark pink and then almost black.
The birds love the berries and so do the deer.
This is a picture of some berries from two years ago since
strong winds broke them all over last summer before they
were able to bear fruit and they were ruined.
The bushes reach from 12 to 14 feet tall.

American Black Elderberry
Sambucus canadensis

The white flowers of the elderberry bush have been used
in many things; pressed into tonics, brewed into wines
and champagne, lightly battered and fried into fritters,
or stirred into muffin or sponge cake mix for a light,
sweet flavor.

The ripe berries, cleaned and cooked, can be made into
many things: extracts, syrups, pies, jams, or used as garnish,
dye or flavoring. The leaves, twigs, stems, roots and unripe
berries of all elderberry plants are not edible, and contain
toxins that can make a person quite sick.
Ripe berries and flowers only!

Elderberries contain potassium and large amounts of
vitamin C, and have been proven in quite a few recent
studies to shorten the duration of cold and flu symptoms,
as well as strengthen the immune system.

The Red Elderberry has red fruit and is toxic. The fruit
grows in round cluster instead of the flat clusters.

Some Folklore and Cool facts on Elderberry:

*The Romans made hair dye from Elderberries.

*Crushed Elderberry leaves, bark and stems have a very
rank smell, and North American Indians used it for insect repellant.

*The elder bushes were grown near the back door, to keep
evil spirits and other negative influences from entering the
home. The aroma exuded by the elder's leaves has long been
known to repel flies, so this folklore may have been borne
out of the need to keep such insects, and the diseases that they
carried, away from the kitchen and food. Bunches of leaves were
hung by doorways, in livestock barns, and attached to horses'
harnesses for the same reason.

* Washing a ladies face in dew gathered from elder flowers was
believed to enhance and preserve a woman's youthful beauty,
and derivatives of elder continue to be used in skin cleansers such
as Eau de Sareau, and eye lotions. Elderberry wine, elderflower
cordial and dried elder flowers for infusion are all still commercially

* A couple of cups of hot elderflower tea before bedtime
helps to bring on a cleansing sweat to combat cold and 'flu-like
symptoms, and elderberry drinks were formerly prescribed to
sooth throat complaints.

*A fine elderflower champagne can be made using the yeasts
naturally present in the blossoms, which can also be dipped in
a batter and eaten as fritters.

* The elder is not a common tree across the Scottish Highlands,
being confined to pockets of deeper, richer soils. Its Gaelic
names, ruis or droman occur only rarely in Scottish place names,
such as Strath Rusdale in Easter Ross and Barrach-an-dromain
on Mull. Droman may have given rise to the word dromanach
which is a specialized wooden peg used to secure thatch on roofs
traditionally made from elder wood. Despite its relative scarcity,
the parts of the tree used for dying were important to the Harris
tweed industry, with blue and purple dyes being derived from
the berries, yellow and green from the leaves and grey and black
from the bark.


Cathy said...

Wow nice looking Berries!
Yum Yum

Teza said...

Every year at the annual family reunion, my now departed Grandmother was famous for her elderberry pies.
I remember planting a Sambucus nigra 'Madonna' - bright yellow variegated form, and waiting for the berries. Alas, no! I love the colour as the berries ripen to maturity, but have to say that the pie reminded me of eating sand! So seedy!

Hocking Hills Gardener said...

The berries look so good but they are so seedy.Eating sand is a good description. Must be one reason the birds love them.I am a worried about them unless they are cooked.Wonder what Elderberry wine tastes like?

Heather said...

Lona- I picked a ton of elderberries this year (in the forest) and then used a steamer/juicer to render the juice which I then canned for later use. I made all of my Christmas gifts this year and homemade jellies and jams made up the majority. Everone got some elderberry, wild plum, apple cinnamon, carrot cake jam and a few other. It was really yummy. I have purchased elderberry jelly and it must be watered down as the coloring of those jellies were light red. Mine at full strength juice was almost black/purple. They were beautiful if I don't say so myself. And yummy too.

gardenerprogress/Catherine said...

The berries look so pretty. I liked the folklore and facts, especially having them planted to keep the evil spirits and negative influences away.

Anonymous said...

I planted a Sambucus nigra 'Black Lace' last year. It's not an edible but it's gorgeous. I love the color of your berries. It's gratifying to have food for the birds.

Balisha said...

I have elderberry bushes in my woods too. I knew nothing about them. I feel like I have a prize back there that I never paid much attention to.Thanks for the info.

The Fern and Mossery said...

the flower fritters sure sound good to me!

Aerie-el said...

Lona, beautiful shot of the elderberries! Based on yours and Teza's comments about sand, I think I'll pass on the pie but maybe consider trying the wine!

Cinj said...

Hmm, do you think if I planted some elderberries the birds would leave my blueberry bushes alone or is that just wishful thinking?

Janet said...

When we lived in Germany, we were at a neighborhood block party and served a wonderful juice. Not a wine or spirits of any kind, it was something for the kids. Turned out to be elderberry juice, it was great. I grow it -- but the birds get most all the berries!

Hocking Hills Gardener said...

Heather, how wonderful and what a great idea to give as gifts.The carrot cake jam is a new one on me. Sounds yummy.

Catherine: I love old folk lore and hoped others would like it also. Some of the stuff had a practical side to it.

Grace: The birds so love them and I was sad they were ruined last year before they got berries. Maybe this summer.

Balisha: I did not know what it was for the longest time and then when years ago when I looked up to find out what they were it was a wonderful surprise. I had heard of Elderberry jam and wine but did not know what they looked like.It was fun then to dig up the facts and myths on the elderberries.

The Fern and Mossery: I am so glad you stopped by and are now a follower. Thank you.

Aerie-el: Unless you can strain out the seeds I would pass on the pie :)

Cindy: Those birds would just eat both girl :)

Janet: Juice sounds better than wine.It is hard to fight the birds over all our fruit. How do they just know before we do when it gets ripe and get them before us :)
Thanks for dropping by.

Anonymous said...

I planted a black elderberry a couple years ago Lona, and have had great luck with it. It's fast growing, attractive and like you said flowers and fruits. I haven't done anything with the berries except leave them for the birds (and they make quick work of them). It's a great shrub. Your bird & cat photos in the previous post were great too. Hope you're having a good weekend?

Monica the Garden Faerie said...

I've heard of elderberries, of course, mostly in the contest of elderberry wine, but I've not seen them before. They're gorgeous! Kind of like quince only a deeper, richer red. Nom nom.

Hocking Hills Gardener said...

Kathleen: Thanks for dropping by.I have not done anything with the berries either, they are left for the birds.

Monica: The flowers and berries are really pretty.The berries are almost black when they are fully ripe. Thanks for stopping by.

Chris said...

The hollow twigs are cool too. Supposedly they can be used to make a flute although I haven't tried it. I was given a bucket of berries this year and am making them into wine. We like it so far but will let it age a while. We also have planted our own elderberries but they haven't had any fruit yet. I'm not sure if I planted them for us or the birds but someone is sure to enjoy them!

Hocking Hills Gardener said...

Hi Chris! I have heard about elderberry wine all my life but have never tasted it. You will have to let me know how your did. Had not heard about making flutes from the twigs. They are hollow so that makes sense that someone would try to make flutes out of them. Interesting.