So as anyone can see I’m a bit of a slacker when it comes to keeping these internet posts up to date and getting this website up and running, Especially with it being so nice out here in Western Pennsylvania, But I’m gonna try to get on the ball and post at the very least once a month….
It feels like autumn right now here in Pennsylvania which gets me thinking of Elder Berries, and since Elder Flowers just finished blooming I thought I’d ramble a bit about this Ancient Herb
The Elder is an ancient tree that has been held sacred by many cultures for thousands of years. The Celts considered it a symbol of life and death, holding it in such high reverence that to cut it down or burn it was sure to bring bad luck. Many Celts planted the tree around their homes for good luck, as well as carrying it on their person in the form of an amulet to bring good luck, healthy children, prosperity and a happy marriage.
These days Elder is most well know for the berries it produces in the late summer and early autumn, often used to make delicious jams and Pies. But there is alot more to elderberries than just their taste. The berries of this tree are full of flavanoids that help to protect cells against invading viruses such as the common cold and Flu. These small berries are also packed full of vitamin c, Iron, and Beta Carotene, making them an excellent winter time treat when made into a syrup.
Before the berries arrive, around about the beginning of July the flowers of Elder begin to blossom, tiny little things in giant clusters of off white to cream color. Much like the berries the flowers are also used medicinally as well as for food. Medicinally the flowers are used internally in the form of a tincture or a tea to help expel toxins from the body through sweating and flushing out the urinary tract. They also relieve heat, and help clear dampness and infection, making these flowers an excellent herb for upper respiratory ailments. Remember if you pick the flowers you wont get the berries!
Recently I picked some Elder Flowers and made a Medicinal Tincture or Extract to use when Cold and Flu season arrives. The other fun thing I did with the flowers was to make an Elder Flower “Fizz”, or soda. I cracked open a bottle of it the other day for the first time and it was great tasting so I thought I would share the recipe. It makes a Big Batch.
24 Cups of Hot water, , 3 Cups of Sugar, 2 tbsp white wine Vinegar, 15-20 large Elder Flower clusters, juice of 4 lemons and Zest.
Mix 3 cups of sugar and vinegar into the Hot water. Add the Lemon juice and Zest. Mix in the Elder Flowers, Remove as much stem from them as possible and make sure no bugs are on the flowers. Stir it all up untill the sugar is dissolved. Cover with Cheese cloth and let sit for 2-4 days. On the second day check the mixture, bubble should have formed from the natural yeast on the flowers fermenting. If there are no bubbles you can add a little bit of yeast. On the fifth day strain out the mixture and pour it into clean and sterile jars or bottles. Let sit for 2 weeks occasionally cracking the lids to release pressure. Put in the fridge to Cool and Enjoy.
Now here are a few more things about Elder that are useful to know…Don’t eat the Red Elder berries they are a different type and some are poisonous. Don’t use the leaves or branches they will make you throw up. Its best to cook the ripe berries before eating a whole lot of them because they have a laxative effect. Also Remember with any plant you are going to harvest make sure you have the right plant!
General Info about Sambucus nigra
Common Name: Elder
Family: Caprifoliaceae (Honeysuckle)
Other Names: Blood Elder, Tree of Medicine, Viking Elder, Tree of music
Etymology: Sambucus comes from the greek word “Sackbut”, a musical instrument made from elder, The common name “Elder” comes from the Anglo Saxon word Aeld, “Fire”, in reference to the young hollow stems being blown into to start a fire.
Description: Small deciduous trees, soft wood, grow to a height of 5-25 feet. Grows in clumps, Divided leaves into 5-11 leaflets, Opposite pairs, shiny above, duller below. Small white flowers in clusters, Purplish to black berries,
Range: Sambucus nigra is native to Europe while Sambucus canedensis is native to North America
Parts Used: Flowers and Berries
Blooming: Early Summer
Harvest: Flowers in Early Summer, Berries in the Late summer
Edibility: Both the flowers and Berries are edible
Constituents: Flower: Flavonoids (Rutin, Quercitin, Kaempferol) Essential oils, Phytosterols (Sitosterol, stigmasterol, campestrol), Viburnic acid, Phenolic compounds (Chlorogenic acid, Caffeic Acid, p-coumaric acid), Triterpenes (Ursolic Acid, 30 B hydroxursolic acid, Oleanolic acid, a-amyrin, B-amyrin, Free esterified solids, fixed oils) Tannins.
Berry: Beta Carotene, Vitamin C, iron, Potassium, Tyrosine, Alkaloids (Sambucine, hydrocyanic acid)
Actions: Flower: Alterative, Anti-catarrhal, Anti-Inflammatory, Antirhuematic, Aniseptic, anti-spasmodic, anti-tumor, astringent, Carminative, Decongestant, diaphoretic, Digestive, Diuretic, Expectorant, Laxative, Nervine, Stimulant.
Berry: Alterative, Laxative, Anti-Inflammatory, Anti-spasmodic, Antiviral, Antiseptic, Digestive, Nervine.