Today’s post is a guest post from Holly Bose at Your Gardening Friend.
In recent conversations, I've come to learn that not everyone knows what an elderberry is. Had my mom not given us the experience of delicious homemade elderberry pies, and elderberry syrup, I too would not know of this tasty creation.
An elderberry is a very small, round, fruit berry with interior seeds. When I say it's a "small" berry, I mean REALLY small. An elderberry is between the size of a BB and a pea. The berries should not be eaten unless cooked (because of toxins), and, unlike most other berries, they require some sweetening.
The general parts of an elderberry bush are as follows:
3. Lateral Branches
5. Flowers (white)
6 .Berry Clusters
Finding Elderberry Bushes
While you may find elderberry bushes in more than one type of setting, you're most likely to see them growing near the roadside, in ditches, along railroad tracks, and other similar locations, in wide open spaces with full sunlight.
Because these areas are not often mowed, you may find the elderberry bushes growing in the midst of other plants, weeds, and tall grasses. Even to the trained eye it can be a little challenging to spot them while driving 45-60 mph. The easiest way to find elderberry bushes is to look for them when they're in bloom. Come spring, specifically the month of May (at least for Indiana), the canopies of white blooms are a stark contrast against the surrounding greenery, and can be seen while driving down the road.
After the flowers are pollinated, small green berries emerge. As the berries mature, the green eventually turns into a medium purple, and the purple into a deep, dark, shiny purply-black color. It is at this point the berries are ready for pickin', around mid-August to mid-September.
The best way to pick them is to break off the entire cluster of berries and place them in a clean plastic bag. Double-bagging is a good idea to make sure the branches don't puncture the plastic bag.
Once you get home, place the plastic bag of berries, including the branch stems, in the freezer. After the berries are frozen, take the entire bag and set it on the kitchen counter. Tap the bag on the counter numerous times. This will cause the frozen berries to break off the cluster. You can then place all the berries in a freezer storage bag until you're ready to make a pie. (My brother shared with me this method of removing the berries from the clusters.)
Because elderberries are an acidic fruit, canning them does not require the investment of a pressure canner/cooker. You need only a boiling pot.
Stay tuned for an upcoming elderberry pie recipe. Yummy!!!
Holly lives in Indiana with her husband and three canine children. They live in the country, nestled in the woods, surrounded by nature. She writes about gardening and her love of wildlife on her blog, Your Gardening Friend.