Growing Elderberries

Growing ElderberriesThe elderberry has a history of use in herbal lore, and growing elderberries gives you a chance to harvest this “magical” herb for yourself. It was once believed that the berries could calm babies and allow you to divine the future and see fairies. It probably doesn’t do most of that, but it has its own worth outside the realm of magic.

Most elderberries grow on their own in the wild, around horse pastures, between fields and along riverbanks,. But you can grow them yourself, too, in order to take advantage of their qualities. Elderberries are popular, too. The berries are full of nutrition, the flowers are fragrant and the wildlife of your area may beat you to the berries if you’re not vigilant.

Some growers feel that the elderberry takes a lot of maintenance, and it does need care in planting, so that it will not overgrow your available garden space. The berries that will form after the shrubs have flowered are quite nutritious and have been used in making jelly, jam, pies, juice, extract and wine, among other treats.

Select the location for your growing elderberries carefully. They need moist soil and full sun, but they can tolerate a little shade. The type of soil isn’t really a problem, unless it’s not moist. Elderberry shrubs can quickly grow out of control if you don’t prune them back. You won’t want to plant elderberries in a garden area that is otherwise neat and formal in appearance. You can cut them back each spring to keep them in check. Elderberry shrubs make good screens for privacy, too. The wildlife will visit your garden more if you plant elderberries, and the animals will include birds, chipmunks, squirrels, rabbits and deer.

The ripe berries of an elderberry shrub are edible, but don’t eat them before they ripen, and don’t eat any other parts of the plant, outside of the flowers. Cooking will destroy the toxins that the berries contain, and give them a better aroma. If you are harvesting some wild elderberries as well as those you have planted, be sure of the type of berry you see before you pick any. There are a few shrubs that look like elderberry plants, but those with red berries, known as Scarlet Elder, are poisonous.

You can purchase elderberry shrubs for planting at nurseries, or select wild shrubs to replant using root cuttings. Plant them in the spring, and give them about eight to 10 feet between bushes. Water young plants well. When you are growing elderberries, set the cuttings carefully in the soil, with just the top buds visible. Be sure to keep them quite moist until they take root.

Elderberry Wine

Elderberry WineYou’ll enjoy the taste of delightful elderberry wine made from the fruit of the elderberry shrub. These shrubs produce an abundance of fruit every summer. Elderberries are bluish-black, and small in size, and they grow in clusters. Wildlife enjoy them too, which is why picking must be done as soon as they are ripe.

By the middle of summer, you can pick the berry clusters and use them for wine, as well as for jelly and juice. The plants grow best in moist woodland soil, along riverbanks and beside field edges and pastures.

The blue elderberry is related to the American elder, as is the black berried elder and the Mexican elder. All of these produce edible fruits. The yellowish-white or white flowers arrive in the late spring or in the early summer, and these will develop into green berries that will change color right before they ripen.

Raw elderberries can bring on nausea if you eat too many, but cooked and ripe berries are harmless, and may possess medicinal value, in addition to making a tasty wine. The berries have mild toxic properties before they ripen, as do the other parts of the plant. The wines made from uncooked berries are tasteful, however. Elderberry wine can also be made with cooked berries.

Elderberry juice is delicious, and it improves in flavor when it is made into wine. Cooked berry wines have more color, as a rule, but the flavor is quite good, whether you use raw or cooked berries. Much elderberry wine is made from home recipes, and they may range in quantity of berries used for each batch.

You will taste the difference in wines with a higher concentrated amount of berries, but they are all purported to be quite delicious. You can preserve the wine color by putting the vessel used for secondary fermentation in a dark place. In addition, using dark bottles for the wine, or storing the bottles in a darkened place, will show you a richer and bolder color.

The less concentrated type of wine is made from three pounds of elderberries, along with water, sugar, yeast nutrient, wine yeast, one Campden tablet and pectic enzyme. The maker will boil water and stir in all the sugar until it is dissolved, and remove the stems from the elderberries. The berries are placed in a bag and mashed, then covered with the boiling water and sugar mixture. After the berries and water are lukewarm, the winemakers add a Campden tablet, yeast nutrient and acid blend. The pectic enzyme is stirred in after about 12 hours. The mixture is stirred daily and fermented for 14 days, then placed in a dark place, where it is allowed to ferment for two more months. They follow several more periods of fermentation, until the elderberry wine is ready to be served and enjoyed.

Medical Uses for Elderberry

medical uses for elderberry

Not only are elderberries delicious in juices and wines, but there are also medical uses for elderberry. It has long been used in England and other European countries, traditionally for relieving pain and for water retention, congestion and … [Continue reading]

Elderberry Juice

elderberry juice

People sometimes include elderberry juice in their diet if they need extra vitamin C, since this juice is a good source of that vitamin. Vitamin C has been purported to be able to assist the body in preventing and treating colds. This juice also has … [Continue reading]