Last weekend my dad and I were taking a walk around the pond admiring the plants. With all the rain we had this spring, and cooler than normal temperatures (until recently), the plants have been thriving. There are so many plants popping up this year that I’ve never seen before and we were making guesses and taking pictures of what we found. At the end of our walk, just twenty yards from the house we discovered a huge Blue Elderberry bush covered in berries! How I never noticed this beauty in the four years we’ve lived here, I will never know!
I had been thinking of purchasing a few elderberry bushes and there was one right outside my door the whole time! Blue Elderberry (a.k.a. Sambucus Cerulea) is native to the western United States from Washington all the way down to Mexico. It grows in many different habitats below 3000 feet. If you think you might have some growing on your property, there are many online resources available to help you identify them. I used calflora.org with confirmation from the folks on the California Native Plant Society Facebook page. The American Elderberry and Red Elderberry can also be found growing throughout the United States.
Elderberries have been used for ages to make medicine and can also be made into jam and wine. All parts of the plant except the berries are toxic to humans though, and the berries should only be consumed after cooking. Eating under-ripe berries can cause stomach upset and nausea.
There are studies (here, here and here) that show taking elderberry syrup will shorten the duration of colds and flu, and many people take a dose of the syrup as a preventative during cold and flu season. We used elderberry syrup last winter and it can be expensive to buy. It is easy to make though, so I got right to work!
Here’s how I made it:
- 1 Cup fresh Elderberries
- 2 Cups water
- 1″ piece of fresh Ginger, minced
- 1 Cinnamon Stick
- 2/3 Cup Honey
Simmer the elderberries, water, ginger and cinnamon until the amount of water is reduced by half. Strain the resulting liquid and allow to cool to room temperature. Stir in the honey and you’re done! Keep in the refrigerator to avoid spoilage.
I am going to pick some more berries and dry them for storage in case I need to make more. I also plan on drying some Mullen, which is everywhere around here (invasive!) because it is good for treating a cough and can be added when making the syrup.
As soon as this crazy heat wave passes, I’m going to go outand see what else I can find hiding in my woods! 😊