What is Elderberry?

J. Beam

An elderberry, or sambucus, is a fruit-bearing, deciduous shrub with at least 30 known species, most commonly found growing in the Northern Hemisphere. The elderberry shrub typically grows to about 10 feet (3 meters) tall and shows yellow and white blossoms in early summer, followed by deep blue or black berries which usually ripen around September. The berries are edible when ripe and have long been thought to have medicinal properties.

Elderberry can be used to treat a cough.
Elderberry can be used to treat a cough.

Ripened elderberries can be used like other berries in fruit pies, muffins, and jams. The dried flowers can also be steeped in water to make elderberry tea and the berries crushed to make elderberry juice. The fresh berries of the elderberry shrub can be used in all the ways other berries are used, including as a topping for pancakes or ice cream, in cobblers, or simply eaten fresh.

Elderberry extracts can be found in many throat lozenges.
Elderberry extracts can be found in many throat lozenges.

In addition to jams, jellies, teas, and fruit pies, the juice of the elderberry is also used in making wine. Elderberry wine is described as uniquely rich by many and is quite common in the United States and Europe. It can also be found in sherry and brandy.

Elderberries are often used as a topping on pancakes.
Elderberries are often used as a topping on pancakes.

As an herbal remedy, elderberry is believed to possess therapeutic uses an anti-inflammatory, diuretic, and immuno-stimulant. When measured nutritionally against other berries, elderberries contain high concentrations of vitamins A and C and potassium. Medicinal products containing elderberry include throat lozenges and cough syrup.

Elderberry can be found in cough syrups.
Elderberry can be found in cough syrups.

Some grocers and many farmers’ markets and fruit stands sell elderberries. Should you choose to grow your own elderberry shrub, they are fairly easy to grow compared to all other fruit trees. They prefer sun, but will tolerate a moderate amount of shade.

Elderberries are edible and are sometimes sold as jellies and jams.
Elderberries are edible and are sometimes sold as jellies and jams.

The elderberry needs well-drained, organic soil and room to grow to at least 10 feet (3 meters) in height. Harvesting should occur when berries are fully ripened, but cannot be left for long as birds will eat the berries. Check your local nursery or garden center to purchase an elderberry shrub for planting. They can be special ordered if there is no retailer in your area that sells them.

Elderberry jam can be used as a spread on toast.
Elderberry jam can be used as a spread on toast.

You might also Like

Readers Also Love

Discussion Comments

anon261735

My elderberry tree is about twenty feet high, with many branches. I had to cut down most of it because of all the flowers falling in the summer. It would irritate my friend's asthma.

I'm glad to know this tree is good for eating and inflammation. I will try eating some berries this year. --California

anon158052

I gather wild elderberries in Maine. There are more than I can ever use. Is there a commercial buyer/distributor of wild elderberries?

mentirosa

Elderberries like to grow in moist soil and if growing close to a compost pile will assist the fermentation process.

Post your comments
Login:
Forgot password?
Register: