Elderberry: Sambucus nigra, also known as the European Elder
What is Elderberry?
Elderberry is a fruit that comes from the elderberry bush, a flowering plant in the Adoxaceae family. The bush produces clusters of small, blue-black berries that are used for food and medicinal purposes.
Where Does Elderberry Come From?
Elderberry bushes are native to Europe, Asia, Africa and North America. Some common varieties include European elderberry (Sambucus nigra), American elderberry (Sambucus canadensis), and Blue elderberry (Sambucus caerulea). The berries have been harvested from the wild for centuries. Today elderberries are also commercially grown on farms for fruit production.
Where Does Elderberry Grow?
Elderberry bushes thrive in damp, fertile soils across temperate regions. They are commonly found growing along streams, ditches, and the edges of farms and forests. Elderberry will grow best in USDA Hardiness Zones 3-10. The plants tolerate partial shade but produce best in full sun locations.
What Does Elderberry Look Like?
Elderberry bushes can grow up to 10 feet tall. The leaves are opposite, compound and have 5-11 leaflets with toothed edges. The flowers are small with five white petals. The berries grow in drooping clusters, ripening from green to deep purple-black in late summer. Each berry is about 1/4 inch in diameter.
What is Elderberry Good For?
Elderberries have long been used for food and folk medicine. The berries are rich in vitamin C and antioxidants. They are often processed into jams, jellies, syrups, candies and cordials. Elderberry is also believed to have anti-viral and immune-boosting properties that may help fight colds and flu. More research is still needed.
Is Elderberry Safe to Eat?
Properly cooked elderberries are safe to eat. However, raw or unripe berries can contain a cyanide-producing toxic compound and should not be consumed. Elderberries should always be cooked thoroughly before eating. The seeds and stems also contain traces of cyanide and should be removed.
Where Can I Buy Elderberry?
Elderberries can be purchased fresh, dried, frozen, or processed into a variety of products. Look for elderberries, elderberry syrups and extracts at natural food stores and online. When buying pre-made products, read the labels carefully and choose reputable brands. Elderberry bushes and plants are also available from nurseries to grow your own berries.
Enjoy your day. Judith