Elderberry - American Elder
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Black fruit of American Elder.
Sambucus nigra ssp. canadensis
Elderberry - American Elder

Uses: Fruit, Flowers
Acquired: 2004
How started:
Source: Steve Whitcher, The Guru Gardener, Tacoma

I received this plant as a Thank You for speaking at the Tacoma chapter of the Western Cascade Fruit Society. I talked about maggot barriers. I was using plastic sandwich bags on apples that year.

The blue or purple berries are gathered and made into elderberry wine, jam, syrup, and pies. The entire flower cluster can be dipped in batter and fried, while petals can be eaten raw or made into a fragrant and tasty tea. The flowers add an aromatic flavor and lightness to pancakes [2] or fritters. For pancakes, ladle pancake batter into the buttered skillet, press whole clusters of elderflowers into the batter and, when it is cooked through, gently pull away the stems, leaving the tiny blossoms embedded in the pancakes. Cook on one side only to preserve the appearance of the pretty white blossoms, cook them at a low temperature so they don’t burn before they’re done, or finish them in a 325-degree oven.

The elderberry was well known to the native people of North America. Throughout the months of July and August, the small clusters of berries were gathered in large quantities. These clusters are dried carefully on the drying floor and preserved in considerable amounts. When wanted, they were cooked into a rich sauce that needed no sweetening.The elderberry was so greatly enjoyed that families would live for weeks on little else. Many were dried for use in the winter, and were either re-cooked or eaten raw.

The active alkaloids in elderberry plants are hydrocyanic acid and sambucine. Both alkaloids will cause nausea so care should be observed with this plant. Elderberries are high in vitamin C.

The wood is hard and has been used for combs, spindles, and pegs, and the hollow stems have been fashioned into flutes and blowguns.


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