New Society says, "Once a staple in homes across the world, and found along every highland, highway, and hedgerow, the forgotten elderberry is making a comeback. Its popularity as medicine is surging, its choice as an edible landscaping plant is growing, and its use for wine-making and crafts is being rediscovered. This is the definitive guide to the many uses of elderberry; no matter where you are, humankind's oldest plant friend can provide you with anything from syrup to wine to dyes, and more."
About the Author
New Society says, "John Moody is the founder of Whole Life Services and Whole Life Buying Club and the former executive director of the Farm-to-Consumer Legal Defense Fund. John discovered more than a decade ago that his diet was literally killing him with duodenal ulcers, seasonal allergies, and other health problems, so the family began to transition to real local foods and local food distribution. "
From the video description:
"Blue Elderberry, Sambucus caerulea, is a common, large shrub in the Pacific Northwest of the USA. This species and many others of the genus are edible and have valuable use as antiviral medicine. Here Michael Pilarski, Skeeter of Friends of the Trees takes us collecting berries in fall of 2010. Later, he shows us how to process and dry the berries also providing narrative on their us"
How to Make Elderberry Syrup
From the video description:
"Making homemade elderberry syrup from fresh, frozen or dried elderberries is quick, easy and very affordable. But staying healthy through seasonal ups and downs can be a real challenge. Did you know that elderberry is not only a delicious fruit, but it is considered one of the premier herbs for boosting and balancing the immune system AND fighting off viruses? Also, it's considered VERY safe AND delicious! Wow!"
From the video description:
"Elderberry species are also complex. Some botanists treat the Black Elderberry (Sambucus nigra) as one species with regional varieties, others treat them as a group of closely related species. The fact they freely hybridize makes identification more difficult."
This book begins with history about the use of the elder tree. This was fascinating to read, and I was surprised to find out that there’s more mentions of the leaves rather than the berries in Hippocrates writing - I’ve never used the leaves before. In these early writings it is always written about as a medicinal plant. Later on in Europe, it was called “the medicine chest of the country people”. The elderberry tree was also widely used in the Americas.
Next the book moves on to what elderberry is - how to identify it, and the nutritional value. There are pictures and lots of information to help foragers identify it. The question about whether the berries are safe to eat raw is answered here too - they weren’t used raw in history, but recipes call for fermenting or heating them to a high temperature, so it’s safest to avoid eating them raw.
Cultivation and care of elderberry is covered in the next chapter. There are many different varieties, and some are more cold-tolerant or heat-tolerant than others, and some will thrive in some places and not others, so if Elderberries are not common where you live, you might still be able to find a cultivar that will grow. A table of named varieties is included, and there are ones which will grow between zones 3 to 10. Cuttings can also be taken from wild elders. The author recommends we try 3 or 4 different varieties to see which ones work best on our land. Different varieties have different levels of shade-tolerance - generally they will all produce better in full sun though. Elders are a plant that can be grown from either hardwood or softwood cuttings, and also with runners and root cuttings, and instructions are given on how to do all of this. Seeds can also be used to grow elderberry (and instructions are provided), but they need a long period of stratification.
Elderberry can be used to stabilise stream banks and erosion-prone slopes. They are a good plant to have for feeding birds and other wildlife. Approaches to pruning and not pruning are covered, and it’s good to have this clarification, as some people have varieties that fruit on first-year canes and will tell everyone to prune it to the ground, but with other varieties the berry yield will suffer from doing this.
The next chapter is all about foraging, harvesting, and preserving. Instructions are given for safe foraging, and look-alikes to be careful about, along with where you are likely to find elder growing, and what times of year you can find the flowers and the berries. Instructions are given for dehydrating, freezing, and juicing.
The next chapter is recipes - elderflower fritters, elderberry jelly, wine and mead (with either DIY wild yeast or purchased yeast), elderberry kombucha, tea, elderflower cordial, elderberry inflused honey, elderflower water and syrup, elderberry syrup, tinctures, a glaze for meats, elderberry cream cheese frosting - there is so much in this chapter that I want to make, and I like that he uses honey as the sweetener of choice (but also gives ideas for subsituting this).
The next chapter is about using elder wood for crafts - elderberry whistle, flute, bellows, lance or spear, pencils, and blowgun/popgun. There’s also some pictures of beautiful skeins of dyed wool in this chapter, so it looks like the wood can be used as a dye as well.
At the end of the book there’s lots of references and additional reading listed to learn about all the things discussed in this book.
I liked this book a lot, and after reading it I know a lot more about one of my favourite trees and am inspired to plant lots of it on my own land! I would recommend this to anyone that likes natural medicines, homemade wines, gardening, permaculture plants, or just learning about the uses of plants in history.
This book starts at the beginning of the written records of the elderberry. The author explains that human elderberry usage is actually much older than written records then goes into specific details about the ancient Greek & Roman uses for elderberry. I found the historical references & pictures throughout the book very interesting. I think it is one aspect of the book that sets it apart from other sources of elderberry information. After the ancient history it goes into further depth about more recent times. I thought it was fascinating how the people of different historical ages & continents have found similar uses for elderberry.
Then the discussion moves towards some scientific info, nutritional info, & identification techniques. There is one particular illustration in that section that would be so cool to have enlarged to wall size. A thing of beauty.
The next chapters are devoted to the care & growing of elderberry. My rough estimation is it includes all the little tidbits I've gathered across the internet since taking the elderberry plunge a couple years ago & compiles it into one easy to use location. The author goes into deeper depth than many other individual sources. The resources used are impressive. This book seems to have anything a typical gardener or homesteader interested in growing elderberry might need to know. There are also some references to help someone who might want more info for a commercial operation. These two or three chapters alone are worth the price of the book.
I think the next two chapters are worth the cost on their own also. There are some excellent foraging instructions & recipes. Everything from desserts to medicines to "fermented elderberry enjoyments" including "making mead like a viking". The author has a good sense of humor. At some point he explains the Monty Python joke about your father smells of elderberry too.
The last chapter is about a topic I had completely overlooked prior to reading the book. My plan was to compost all the leaves & sticks. But noooo ... there are other fun & useful things than can be done. Some of the old ads & publications were very fun to see.
To sum it all up this book is an excellent resource for anyone interested in elderberry. Everything from the historical & scientific info to the toy whistles was well researched & presented. The graphics are excellent too. One last bonus point worth mentioning is the choice of an environmentally conscious publisher & printer. Thanks John for writing this excellent elderberry book. I think it has something for anyone interested in this wonderful plant.
Argue for your limitations and they are yours forever.
Thank you for sharing these links and information in this book. I have been making elderberry syrup for a couple of years from berries collected locally. I would like to grow them on my property. Anybody try growing them on hugel mounds?
This is a great book! The author begins his book with some history on the uses of the elderberry. This includes the historic uses of the plant parts, berries, and even the leaves and stems. With excerpts from the likes of Hippocrates, often called the “Father of Medicine,” and Pliny the Elder, a multitude of remedies are discussed within.
Included are instructions of several ways to propagate new plants, and the care of them necessary to bring them into production. He continues with their ongoing maintenance care, which depending on your preferences, some pruning may be in order. He also writes about how to identify elderberry bushes in the wild, so you can enter the adventure of foraging for harvests.
If you wonder what to do with all those berries you have picked, he provides recipes for pie, wine and even a historical soup recipe! Several syrup recipes are also included.
The author wraps up his treasure of information with instructions on how to make whistles and blowguns. Sounds fun to me! I’m off to prune my bushes for production of weaponry for young Permies, and additional plants!