Elderberry & Edible Landscaping
Elderberry growing in the wild is lost to most of us. An ancient medicinal and a tree revered in olden times, it's easy to grow at home. Plant it in moist good soil, and step back!
Does it seem a bit precious, a cottage garden of Grandmother lore, when we've grown accustomed to 6-packs of petunias?
Why bother planting a shrubby tree, a rambling blossomer with edible fruit, a more usual target for suburban bulldozing?
"Permaculture" would be one answer, landscaping for fruit, berries and nuts, instead of topiary! We can save the fruitful wildings as asphalt encroaches.
An edible landscape can also be a beautiful one, generally more curvaceous and nook-ish than monocrop straight lines, or lawn and clipped hedge.
Think: Secret Garden. Fragrance and fruitfulness are possible small-scale, in tiny urban yards, on rooftops, or hidden country gardens.
Some communities actually protect wild fruitful land. I used to love a camping adventure--to pick wild blackberries on the Mendocino Village Commons, with the Pacific crashing on the cliffs below and sea fog at dawn.
Through all of human history, plants which produce food grow family/community wealth and well-being. Children can grow up amidst the wonder of seasons, flower to fruit.
Bees love the fragrant flower heads of elderberry, and humans love the delicious berries as juice or country wine.
The healing syrup is pricey in pharmacies and health food stores; we could make our own.
Commercial elderberry syrups often are named with a derivation of the botanical genus, Sambucus.
The more usually prescribed antibiotics are not anti-viral, though expected/demanded by patients.
North American elderberry grows from Canada to northern Mexico. If gathering in the wild, learn from an outdoorsperson, Native American, or botany field trip leader.
Enticing dark purple berries do not suggest: "Eat-me"... Alice.
In the photo below, a poisonous American medicinal, pokeweed, on the left also has purple fruit, a stalk of them. Elderberry on the right has sprawling berries from a flat blossom head, and opposite leaves, a further clue.
Have you ever sipped elderberry fruit juice? Or the country wine? Delectable, though a mess to make, with harvest-purple fingers and mouth, but deeply rewarding!
A classic formula would be 1 Tbs each of the following herbs steeped five minutes in a liter of water:
Yarrow in the febrifuge is stunningly bitter and made more palatable by the mint which helps calm a likely upset tummy.
This protocol can be effective though bold. A cup could also be sipped at hourly intervals for less dramatic intervention.
Elderflower water from the tea is a skin tonic, yellow and fragrant after a period of aging: Gathering and Using Elderflowers to Make Lotions for Beautiful Skin ...
So, what if we just are not able to wander wild creek bottoms, or stroll a European lake path, or plant the small tree to gather fresh berrries in autumn?
Good news: The dried berries do very well.
And for those of us struggling with the imposed uniformity of towns-against-gardens or nutsi Homeowners Associations, you can abide by outer regimentation, and still be kitchen-creative with the dried berries.
Here's a lovely and easy recipe from Wellness Mama:
- Pour water into medium saucepan and add elderberries, ginger, cinnamon and cloves (do not add honey!)
- Bring to a boil and then cover and reduce to a simmer for about 45 minutes to an hour until the liquid has reduced by almost half. At that point, remove from heat and let cool enough to be handled. Mash the berries carefully using a spoon or other flat utensil. Pour through a strainer into a glass jar or bowl.
- Discard the elderberries (or compost them!) and let the liquid cool to lukewarm. When it is no longer hot, add 1 cup of honey and stir well.
- When honey is well mixed into the elderberry mixture, pour the syrup into a pint sized mason jar or 16 ounce glass bottle of some kind.
- Ta Da! You just made homemade elderberry syrup! Store in the fridge and take daily for its immune boosting properties. Some sources recommend taking only during the week and not on the weekends to boost immunity.
- Standard dose is ½ tsp to 1 tsp for kids and ½ Tbsp to 1 Tbsp for adults. If the flu does strike, take the normal dose every 2-3 hours instead of once a day until symptoms disappear.