Elderberries are ripening. It’s time to get out before the birds eat them all. In my neck of the woods I find berries ripe for the picking and some that need a few more days. Some of course, are eaten by the birds. I leave berries for them and then move on to the next shrub. I also find pokeweed mixed in at this time of year. Pokeweed stems are getting tall. Their leaves and berries hide over and under the elderberries. Are the pokeweed berries edible? No. therefore it’s important to properly identify both species so you can pick the right ones.
I have included a picture of this lookalike, Pokeweed, mentioned above.
Pokeweed: Phytolacca americana, is very common to our area. Though the flowers are different, the purple berry can be easily confused with elderberry. The berries of pokeweed are NOT edible and can cause a very bad stomach ache and should not be eaten by children. Notice the stems of both plants? Both are pink.
The young shoots in early spring, 6” tall or less can be eaten as a pot herb. Foraged greens like poke weed need to be boiled two or three times to make the green palatable. Pokeweed is typically shorter than elderberry, easily bent and can be invasive. I always recommend folks to check 3-5 filed guides when identifying a plant and to check with someone who can verify the plant before consuming.
Elder Berries: Two most common uses for elderberries and probably most known, are elderberry wine and cordials. These concoctions and using the juice of elderberry, are some of the best known prevention products against the flu and chills.
Nutrition Facts: “According to the USDA National Nutrient Database, a cup of elderberries yields .96 g of protein, .72 g of fat, 26.68 g of carbohydrates and 10.2 g of total dietary fiber, all at a modest 106 calories. Elderberries are cholesterol-free, virtually fat-free and low in sodium.”
Recipe: Vinegars are easy to make, have a good shelf life and are an easy way to preserve nutrients from many herbs, culinary included. Organic apple cider vinegar is always my first choice though the chefs among us probably have a favorite wine or rice vinegar that will work too.
Recipe: Elder Berry Vinegar
Pick 2 lb of elderberries and dry them
Place in a quart jar and pour vinegar over berries.
Let sit, shake every few days. Strain after 2 weeks. This condiment can be added to salad dressings, to flavor sauces, as a marinade etc.
Other Suggestions: Elderberry has had an esteemed place in our kitchens and our medicine cabinets. Elderberry jam is easy to obtain in our area. I usually purchase some from farm markets to have on hand throughout the winter months. Elderberry syrup can be purchased at pharmacies and health food stores. Elderberry lozenges help soothe a sore throat. Do you have a favorite recipe using elderberries? I would like to hear from you…Enjoy.