Friday, February 19, 2010

Wisdom of the Elders

Poor Sara has been under the weather for a week now, fighting a sore throat and cold. Last year when I had a horrible, unrelenting cold, my friend Flo brought me elderberry syrup and within a day of adding it to my tea I felt much better. Coincidence? I can't prove it helped but I was persuaded. I have since found studies supporting its effectiveness.

You can purchase elderberry syrup (called "sambuca")at the co-op but it is quite pricey. So, last summer when we found wild black elderberry bushes growing along the roadside nearby, we made sure to harvest some when the berries were ripe.

First, I washed and towel-dried the umbrels of berries. Then I tried dehydrating the berries (still on the stems) in three different ways:
- air dried by hanging upside down in bundles
- on a baking sheet in a very low oven
- in the food dehydrator

Once dried, the berries are easily separated from their stems and can be stored in a container in the cupboard. The berries that were dried in the food dehydrator dried within hours, look plump, glossy and beautiful, and were the easiest to separate from the stems - I will dry them all using that technique next summer.

Many recipes can be found online for making elderberry syrup. Last night, I concocted my own recipe and it is my favorite version so far:

Elderberry Syrup

Combine in a saucepan:
1/2 c. dried elderberries
3 c. water
Bring to a boil, then reduce temperature to a simmer.

3 T. Mulling spices (or, a stick of cinnamon, a few cloves, a star of anise, an orange peel)
Juice of 1/2 lemon
Simmer 40 minutes.

Stir in:
1 cup honey.

Allow to cool. Mash the berries and strain the syrup. Store in a covered glass container in refrigerator up to 3 months. The syrup can be eaten by the tablespoonful or can be added to tea, cranberry juice, or poured over ice cream, yogurt or waffles.

Sara hates to go to the doctor or take any drugs; she was very appreciative of this traditional medicinal. I hope it helps--and if so, I think I will plant a row of elderberry bushes this spring.


Dan said...

I have never tried elderberries, how do they taste? I have heard about elderberry wine & ale, would love to try and brew some one of these days.

Susan said...

A good friend makes wine with elderberry (not straight, usually mixed with other fruits, like raspberry and grapes) and it is FABULOUS! I like the flavor of elderberry - it has a bit of tannin(?), giving it a slight astringency.

RW said...

Elderberry is one dried fruit that I haven't dehydrated yet.

Dene said...

Very interesting- keep us up to date on how this works out for you and your family. My family hates going to the doctor as well (which is kind of funny since my husband and I both work for hospitals/doctors... in I.T.)

nikina said...

u could also, instead of drying them, make juice from of the ripe berries...when u get a cold just mix it in hot water and drink it like tea with some honey. it cures every cold for sure !!! Ederberry is VERY popular in Europe. since i came to canada i havn't found any wild elderberry bushes, they don't excist here in northwestern ontario. I am glad they do excist and are appreciated !!! one of my favourite healing plants !!!

katiegirl said...

What a good idea. You'll have to let us know how Sara does.

Susan said...

Sara is feeling significantly better today and she believes the elderberries deserve credit.