Elder – Sambucus
Elder is native to Europe, but it flourishes in many parts of the world.
Elder is a hardy fast growing shrub /small tree.
Parts used: Flowers and the black berries.
The root, stem and leaves are NOT to be eaten. The root, stem and leaves of the elder are toxic. This also applies to the green berries.
Be sure to wait until the berries are black before using.
Black berries should not be eaten raw. It is not dangerous, but raw ripe elderberries may give you a very upset stomach. The ripe black berries should always be used either as dried berries or cooked.
Culinary Uses and Beverages
Cooked elderberries or dried elderberries are what you want to use in your food. Elder berries are absolutely something we should use more of when cooking. Elderberries taste so good!
Pick the elderberries when they are ripe. They are ripe when they have turned black. Elderberries freeze well.
Elderberries are also used in baking. Elderberry pie is something most people seem to like.
Homemade elderberry wine is enjoyable. If you do not know much about wine making, you should try elderberry liqueur. Elderberry liqueur is super easy to make. It is also a wonderful gift for friends and relatives.
If you do not have access to your own elder, you can always buy them at health food store. It is recommended that you buy organically grown elder.
Elder flower tea
If you would like to stock up on elder flower tea, you can dry them for later use. Spread the flowers and leave to dry in a dark and dry area. You should not dry them in the sun.
Store the dried flowers in a container and add it to your collection of outstanding herb teas.
Elder has been called “the medicine chest of the people” for centuries. Both the flowers and the berries bring great health benefits.
As mentioned earlier elderberries are very rich in Vitamin A and C.
Elder flowers are especially known as being beneficially to the respiratory system. Hot elder tea aids the clearing of the respiratory system.
Elderberry syrup is also used to assist the fast recovery of the flu.
Hot elderberry wine is good when suffering from a cold.
Drinking elder tea daily a couple months before the pollen count rises may reduce allergic reactions caused by hay fever.
Elder tea can also be used as a gargle for sore throats.
Elder tea helps reduce fever.
If you are pregnant or breast feeding please consult your doctor before treating yourself with elder.
Folklore and Superstition
Elder was believed in England and Northern Europe to be inhabited by “Mother Elder”. It was said one always had to ask Mother Elder for permission before cutting the elder tree. One was also expected to apologize for the act.
Cutting down an elder tree without permission from the spirit of Mother Elder who resided in the tree would bring the woodsman great harm and would cause death to other plants and trees in the garden.
If you absolutely had to cut an elder tree it was important to bow three times and recite “Mother Elder, Mother Elder, Give me some of your wood and when I am dead I’ll give you some of mine”.
Furniture should never be made from elder wood, especially a crib for the baby. Any one in possession of elder wood furniture was sure to have ill fortune.
Another superstition was that if you hit children or animals with an elder stick you would live to deeply regret the act.
In Russia there was a superstition that the elder would keep the evil spirits away from the property.
In England there was an old superstition that lightning never struck an elder.
Also in England it was considered extremely unlucky to burn an elder tree.
A cross made from elder wood and hung on the door of the stable or barn was supposed to protect the animals from evil spirits.
Elderberries collected on St. John’s Eve (June 23rd) would protect the person from witchcraft.
Carrying a twig of elder was considered especially auspicious.