Original "Harvesting Elderberries" post was written by Ryia on the Our Homesteading Journey blog.
Harvesting Elderberries is one of those easy plants to harvest. You don’t have to stand at the bush picking one berry at a time. You can clip the clusters of berries and go sit down and pick the berries in comfort!
First, let me explain what an elderberry is. The plant is more of a bush commonly known as an Elder bush or Elder flower. The bush grows mostly in the northern hemisphere, but other varieties have been found to do well in Australia. The scientific name for our elderberries is Sambucus nigra. When eating elderberries, you need to know that it is always a good idea to cook them first because they do have very small amounts of cyanide. The Sambucus nigra, doesn’t have as much as other varieties. But caution is still used when eating the berries. I have read that you can eat the berries raw, but use caution.
The flowers can be used to make elder-flower wine or fritters. The wine is a favorite to many homesteading families. We haven’t taken on that adventure, yet. The berries have many more perks to them. The nutritional value alone is worth it. The berries have iron, potassium, phosphorous, and copper, as well as vitamins, such as vitamin A, B, and C, proteins, and dietary fiber. Add the perks of anti-inflammatory and antioxidant agents in the body and you have a SUPER FRUIT! My favorite way to use the berry is to make an Immune Booster syrup to help keep the cold and flu away and to boost that immune system! The berries can be used to make wine, syrups, jams, jellies, and pies. But my favorite way to use them is as a immune booster.
So let me share how we harvest our elderberries. We look for clusters that are MOSTLY ripe. You want the berries to be a real dark purple or red color. The darker the fruit, the better. We place the head in a bucket.
We then go and sit down at a table and start lightly running our fingers through the cluster. If there are green berries, we try to either pick them off the cluster first before we pick the ripe fruit, or we go through the bucket and pick them out afterwards. There is no wrong way to do this step. Remember, the darker the berries the better the fruit. The berries are very delicate so be careful not to smash the berries.
After the berries have been picked, it is time preserve them. Some people use them fresh. Some people freeze them. I prefer to dry them. We place them in our dehydrator for several days until they are completely dry. Then you can place them in an air tight container until you are ready to use them.
Here is a great little list of overall benefits to Elderberries that I found on www.organicfacts.net
Check out this other post by Ryia for an example usage of elderberries, where she makes Elderberry Syrup.