Elderberry Plant Information | A Unique Edible Plant to Grow

Elderberry Plant Information | A Unique Edible Plant to Grow

Elderberry Plant Information | A Unique Edible Plant to Grow

This post, titled Elderberry Plant Information | A Unique Edible Plant to Grow, provides information on propagation and edibility of this medicinal shrub.

Elderberry is another unique edible plant to grow.  It is a deciduous shrub, in USDA zone 7b at least. Its scientific name is Sambucus. It loves full sun and moist but well drained soil.  The varieties I have grow in USDA zones 4 to 9.

The Basics

Elderberry Plant Information | A Unique Edible Plant to Grow - ElderberryLeaves2

Elderberry Plant Information | A Unique Edible Plant to Grow

The leaves are almost feather like with five to nine leaflets.  I have pictures showing 5 and 9 leaflets from two varieties I have in my yard.  I also have a Black Lace variety pictured that shows 7 leaflets.

Elderberry bear large clusters of white and sometimes white and pink flowers in late spring followed by berries in the mid-summer.  The berries can be red, blue, or black.  According to the USDA the red berries are toxic but the blue and black berries are safe to eat. [1]

Elderberries attract wildlife.  Butterflies and humming birds enjoy the flowers and birds enjoy the berries.  Molly and Murphy (my rat terriers) also love to eat any berries that fall to the ground.

Elderberry Plant Information | A Unique Edible Plant to Grow - ElderberryLeaves

Elderberry Plant Information | A Unique Edible Plant to Grow

The flowers of some varieties can be used to make juices and syrups and in some cases the umbels are coated in batter and fried.  The berries can be used to make wines, syrups, pies, relishes and jams.  The plants are commercially cultivated for fruit production in Oregon.

Propagation

Elderberry can be propagated by seed or cuttings.  Seed needs to be stratified.  Propagation by cutting produces fragile roots initially, so care needs to be taken when transplanting.  Plants mature quicker from cutting than by seed.  Plants can flower in as little as 2 to 3 years and can reach full size in 3 to 4 years.  I planted mine and had berries the following year.  After two years I had more berries than I could use.

Elderberry Plant Information | A Unique Edible Plant to Grow BlackLace

Elderberry Plant Information | A Unique Edible Plant to Grow

I have the following varieties: Nova, Johns, Adams, American, Thundercloud, Korsor, Haschberg, Blue, and Black Lace.  I will provide individual write-ups on any that I plan to sell in the nursery.  I know I will be selling Nova, Johns, and Adams in the future.  These have been producing large fruit and lots of it for a few years now.

Nutrition and Medicinal

According to Wikipedia it contains 10% or higher of the USDA recommended value of Vitamin C, B6, and Iron in 3.5 oz. and has traces of other vitamins and minerals. [2]

“Elderberry flowers contain flavenoids and rutin, which are known to improve immune function, particularly in combination with vitamin “C.” The flowers also contain tannins, which account for its traditional use to reduce bleeding, diarrhea, and congestion.” [2] *

Elderberry Plant Information | A Unique Edible Plant to Grow Berries

Elderberry Plant Information | A Unique Edible Plant to Grow

I use caution with any claims of medicinal value.  Therefore, I copied the below bulleted section from the University of Maryland Medical Center [3] *

  • Elderberry, or elder, has been used for centuries to treat wounds, when applied to the skin. It is also taken by mouth to treat respiratory illnesses such as cold and flu. In many countries, including Germany, elder flower is used to treat colds and flu. Some evidence suggests that chemicals in elder flower and berries may help reduce swelling in mucous membranes, such as the sinuses, and help relieve nasal congestion. Elder may have anti-inflammatory, antiviral, and anticancer properties.
  • Elderberry also contains flavonoids, which have antioxidant properties and may help prevent damage to the body’s cells. However, very few studies have been done in humans, so researchers don’t know how effective elder may be.
  • There are several species of elder, but Sambucus nigra, or European elder (also called black elder), is the one used most often for medicinal purposes. Avoid dwarf elder (Sambucus ebulus), which can be toxic. Use a trusted preparation of elder because raw or unripe fruit — as well as the leaves, seeds, and bark — contain a chemical related to cyanide, which is poisonous.

The product known as Sambucol is maid from black elderberry extract and makes many claims about its health benefits.

Recipe

Here is a recipe that I have made before and will be making this year.  I have two 1-gallon bags of elderberries in the freezer.  I harvested them several times this past summer and put them away for processing when I have more time in the fall.  When I do process them, I’ll video some of the process and make a good detailed blog post for everyone.

  • Elderberry Syrup with Honey and Cinnamon Recipe

    • Ingredients
      • 1 quart elderberry juice
      • 2 cups honey
      • 2 sticks cinnamon
    • Directions
      • Sterilize three 16-ounce jars, keep hot. Heat lids and rings in hot water. Fill water bath canner and bring to boil. Combine all ingredients in a non-reactive pot. Heat and stir until all honey is dissolved. Bring to boil and boil for ten minutes. Ladle hot syrup into sterilized jars leaving 1/4′′ headspace. Wipe rims clean and screw on the lids. Process for 10 minutes in water bath canner (add 1 minute for every 1,000 feet above sea level). Makes around 3 pints of syrup.

I made 6 pints last year and took a teaspoon a day throughout the winter.  I did get a cold once and I took a teaspoon 3 times a day.  I was over the cold in a few days. *

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References

[1] – http://plants.usda.gov/plantguide/pdf/cs_sanic4.pdf

[2] – http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sambucus

[3] – https://umm.edu/health/medical/altmed/herb/elderberry

*These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration.  This product is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease.

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