Hey John, welcome to the forum.
I live in Japan and have 2 elder trees which both produce heaps of flowers and berries every summer. The flowers smell the same as I remember from my childhood in the UK but the berries taste really awful. I've successfully made elderflower 'champagne' and cordial but the raw taste of the berries has put me off trying to make anything out of them.
I have no idea what variety of Sambucus it is but do the berries always taste that bad unprocessed?
Will be looking out for your book if I don't win a copy here!
Morning Crip. It really depends on the elder... canadensis is one of the most palatable right off the plant, and recent research shows that at least some varieties are safe that way. Many other elder taste bad because it is a warning to not eat them - they contain potent poisons - usually cyanide and alkaloids, though others may be possible.
As I say in my main nutrition talk I give at events, being eaten is generally a bad survival strategy, so plants seek to kill you before you kill them! They just do it via chemical warfare rather than claws and the like of the animal kingdom.
We have few Sambucus nigra and I have tasted few times the ripen (black) fruits and they are not that bad tasting (just out of curiosity). We use them for a traditional drink in the area (as flowers) and jam (as fruits).
I'm very excited about the idea of this book. Planted my first canadensis last year and await berries. Am I correct in thinking that I could prepare these berries the way I would aronia (say, as a jelly with a hint of lemon) and that most of the astringency will fade?
I find that tolerance to tartness is highly personal. My younger daughter and I will happily nibble on aronia (an extremely tart berry) - my husband and elder daughter find that totally unpalatable.
I find elderberry (canadensis variety) to be somewhere in the middle of the tartness scale for berries (where blueberries/raspberries would be at the very top of the "easy to eat" scale).
I generally don't bother with complex processing: I'll simply mix the tart fruits in small amounts with sweeter fruits, like apples in apple crisp, in a smoothie, or in fruit compotes. I find that this is where the complex flavors of the wild berries can really shine, when they're not overpowered by the tartness and not completely smothered in sugar either (as they would in, say, jam). They also do great in savory meals, the way barberries are used in Persian cooking (often in rices).
posted 9 months ago
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