Fascinating Fruit: The Elderberry

Foodie foragers are fascinated by these wild, blue-black berries. Let’s discover more about this fascinating fruit and explore the elderberry’s many creative culinary uses. 

What are Elderberries? 

Elderberries are found all throughout the Northern Hemisphere. Elderberries are a member of the genus Sambucus, and share a common family tree with honeysuckle, growing just as wild and prolific as their fragrant cousin. A fruit perfect for foragers, elderberries can be found in moist, sunlit patches of forests or rural countrysides. These small, dark berries are found growing in tight bunches on elder trees, ripening between late summer and mid-autumn. As they are not commonly sold in grocery stores, only a well trained eye can harvest these coveted berries. 

*Consult an expert before you forage and harvest elderberries. When harvesting, only collect plump, soft, and fully ripened dark berries. Unripened elderberries can be toxic. It is also advised to cook the berries, not consume them raw. 

Flavor & Uses

Image Credit: RitaE from Pixabay

Elderberries are not exceptionally sweet, but they do have a spectacular earthy-tart flavor that makes them a prime candidate for canning and preserving. Homemade jam, jelly and preserves tend to be the most popular use for the elderberries. Often elderberries are blended with other berries (blackberries, raspberries, and strawberries) to round out their flavor;  explore more with this recipe

Wine and fermented beverages are a clever way to use not only the elderberry, but also the sweet-scented flowers of the elder tree as well. Popular liqueurs (such as. St. Germain) use the fragrant power of the elderflower to elevate cocktails and cordials. Explore more here

Where to find Elderberries? 

Most common grocery stores will not sell fresh elderberries (there is not much demand) but many rural communities have groups that forage seasonally and may have more details on finding elderberries in your area (again, with caution, and consult an expert before you harvest). Elderberry products are widely available online; jams, jellies, and preserves. Elderflower liqueurs are extremely popular and should be found at most liquor stores. 

Feature Image: RitaE from Pixabay

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