Elderberries are a familiar late summer sight in British hedgerows.
They're easy to spot, with their distinctive purple-black fruit hanging from the heavily-laden branches.
For centuries, they have been used to make wine and syrups.
If you're picking your own, make sure you read the safety notes in how to choose elderberries (below).
- It's really important only to pick ripe (purple-black) elderberries. You can tell they're ripe because the fruits will be hanging downwards and plump, rather than being above the branch and hard.
Avoid green and green-purple berries as these are unripe and contain traces of cyanide, which can cause vomiting and diarrohea... In some sensitive people, even ripe fruit will do this. However, cooking removes this problem.
Pick the berries on their twig. Leave the job of taking the berries off the stalks until you're home.
Use elderberries the day you pick them, to enjoy them at their freshest.
- Wash the berries thoroughly by soaking in a large bowl of cold water. The debris will float and can be skimmed off.
Most recipes call for the berries to be removed from the stalks. This can be done gently with your fingers or by pulling the stalks through a dinner fork.
Don't eat the berries raw as they can cause nausea for some people. The odd one or two, to check the flavour of a bush, is probably fine. Any more than that could be asking for problems...
One of the simplest recipes is elderberry syrup. Or you could try jelly, wine or even ice cream.
More Elderberries InformationIn the past, it has been a plant of myth and superstitions. In the Middle Ages it was believed to be the tree of witches and that cutting a branch off would unleash their wrath. Old folklore tells that lightening never strikes elder trees, so they're safe to stand under during a storm.
We don't recommend you worry too much about these!
Elderberries have been eaten for thousands of years - and rightly so. They are an excellent source of vitamin C, as well as vitamins A & B.
They are best used cooked, as the traces of cyanide in raw and under-ripe berries can cause vomiting...
Graham's Rhubarb Pudding Looking around for different ways to cook rhubarb as we have a lot of rhubarb in the garden, Ingredients
- Wash rhubarb, cut into 3cm / 1" lengths and place in a flan dish covering the base.
- In a mixing bowl cream together the butter and sugar. Add the beaten egg.
- Mix in the flour and milk, lightly beat then spread over the rhubarb.
- Bake for 40/45 minutes in an oven pre-heated to 180C / 350F / Gas4. (Fan assisted 30/35 minutes at 160C).
- Elderberry & Almond Pie
Elderberry and almond pie is a combination I would never have dreamed of. So I'd like to thank an anonymous friend in our village for sharing her family recipe with us. Thanks also to a reader, Pippa, for the photograph.
- Elderberry Syrup
This is a great way of preserving fresh, ripe elderberries. The syrup keeps in a jar in the fridge for a couple of weeks. Or you can freeze it in ice cube trays, then store the cubes in plastic bags, to last all winter.
Got one? Send us your recipe!
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