How to Harvest Elderberry Sambucus canadensis

This How to Harvest Elderberry Sambucus canadensis post shows you how to harvest elderberries off of the bush and then how to remove the stems and green berries and then clean the berries.  We also go into labeling your bags before freezing.  There is a video at the bottom of this post that shows the entire harvesting elderberry process.  The botanical name for elderberry is Sambucus canadensis.

Mid-August Harvest

How to Harvest Elderberry Sambucus canadensis

How to Harvest Elderberry Sambucus canadensis

It is mid-August and two of my four elderberry plants have fruit that is ready to harvest.  The clumps of fruit are as big around as my hand. The American and John’s elderberry cultivars are ready, but the Nova and Adams cultivars still have a few weeks to go.  I usually process my elderberries all at once, so what I’m going to do now is just harvest them, clean them and freeze them so I can process them later in the fall or early winter.

Cutting the Clumps

How to Harvest Elderberry Sambucus canadensis

How to Harvest Elderberry Sambucus canadensis

The way I go about harvesting elderberry is to cut the entire clump off of the bush.  Then I look at them and pull any bugs off the clumps and put them into a bowl.  I do this for each clump that is ripe.  If only have the berries are ripe in a clump, I will leave the clump on the bush for another week.

Berry Picking

After I have all of the clumps cut and bugs removed, I bring them into the kitchen for individual berry picking.  I have tried several methods, to include freezing them.  Nothing really seems to work that spectacular.  About the best way is to use a comb that has a large space between the bristles and just comb through the elderberry clump.  I comb them into a colander.

How to Harvest Elderberry Sambucus canadensis – The Berries

Clean the Pile

At this point you need to remove any debris that has fallen into the colander that is not berries.  This may include a few more bugs, dried berries, or leaves.  You also need to remove any green berries as they can make you sick.

How to Harvest Elderberry Sambucus canadensis – Debris Removed

You’ll want to remove as many of the little stems as possible.  Whether you use a comb or hand pick the berries off of the elderberry clumps, you will inevitably end up with small stems in the colander with the berries.  This process is the most time consuming part of harvesting elderberry.  Like the green berries, the stems can make you sick.

Wash the Berries

The next step is to wash the berries.  Since they are already in a colander, you can just run some cold water over them.  After the are washed, I lay out some paper towels on the counter, pour the berries on top, and then dry the berries.

Package and Freeze

How to Harvest Elderberry Sambucus canadensis – Package and Freeze

After they berries have been wiped dry, I put them in a large clear bag, and then put them in the freezer.  One-gallon zip-lock bags work great.  Don’t forget to label the bag with what is in the bag and the date that you put them in the freezer.  The labeling will help a lot if you get multiple bags of different fruit in the freezer.

But Wait, I’m in a Hurry!

If you are in a hurry and don’t have time to do this entire process, then you can modify the process.  Right after you have picked the berries and pulled any bugs off, you can put them in a clear plastic bag.  I usually use a clear trash bag.  After I have the berries in the bag, I then label the bag with the berry type and the date.  Then I toss the bag into the freezer so I can pick and clean them later.  This saves a lot of time now, but at some point you will still have to do all of the picking and cleaning talked about above.

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How to Harvest Elderberry Sambucus canadensis – The Video

Check out the Harvesting Elderberry video below.

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Purchase your elderberry plants from Great Escape Nursery.

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