When we first moved onto the farm I didn't know much (or anything, really...) about wildcrafting. But thanks to a wonderful birthday present from Brian (the book Northwest Foraging by Doug Benoliel) I have started to learn a thing or two. I was very excited to discover that the tree on the farm which I had thought based on the book's description was elderberry... was indeed, elderberry! And it was a VERY happy, very fertile, elderberry tree!
This is blue elderberry (Sambucus cerulean) not to be confused with red elderberry (Sambucus racemes) which are poisonous unless carefully prepared. The ideal time to harvest blue elderberries is when they are like the picture shows, covered with a powdered-sugar like whiteness. The berries are very tart and have little seeds inside. I thought they were palatable raw, (though I wouldn't gorge myself on them like strawberries or blueberries...) but most people used them cooked in recipes or as a cold-season fighting tonic.
What's so great about elderberry?
Elderberries are a true super food. They have INCREDIBLE immune-boosting properties (Learn more here.) They have started to become popular again as people are looking for alternatives to over-the-counter drugs to help fight off colds and flus during winter months.
How do you harvest them? And where?
I feel very lucky to have a giant elderberry tree growing in my back yard, but if you are not so lucky, there are other ways to find them. I live in Oregon and I see them everywhere this time of year--in parks, off the side of country roads. To learn more about how to find them I would suggest getting a copy of Doug Benoliel's book, Northwest Foraging. (Of course, you could always just purchase the berries online...)
Brian and I harvested FOUR full flats. Apparently, it's a very good year for elderberries! We cut off the bunches of berries and brought them back to the kitchen where we used a fork or our fingers to remove the berries from their cluster. If you are harvesting them yourself, make sure you leave some for the birds!
We placed them on our awesome dehydrator to dry overnight. (Along with some strawberries...)
We also froze a full bag of them for using later as well.
What do you do with elderberries?
I am planning on experimenting over the winter with lots of different recipes. I am hoping to put them in baked goods, make elderberry syrup (which is supposed to help fight of the flu but I am also going to enjoy as a cocktail mixed with vodka... and also over ice cream...) and hopefully also make elderberry wine.
That's a little bit of what we've been up to. It's been a lot of fun packing away food for the winter months when we will move off the farm and Brian won't have any steady employment. I feel a bit like a squirrel. It's been a lot of fun foraging on the farm. Looking forward to using the elderberries very soon. If you want to know what I end up doing with all the elderberries we harvested, be sure to check back in because in later.