The Elder is my most favourite of trees. In the summer they bloom with the most delicious flowers which can be used in a whole manner of ways (try this boozy elderflower cordial recipe!). And then in Autumn they offer up another tasty bounty when they positively drip with elderberries, which are also delicious when cooked (but do see my safety note below before you eat any).
Elderberries are in season from, depending on where you are, roughly mid-September to mid-October. The little black berries pack a mighty punch – they are rich in Vitamin A and B, and are richer in Vitamin C than oranges, making them a great natural cold and flu remedy. Last winter I was plagued with the cold and flu, so this year I thought I’d make an elderberry syrup to to help ward off any pesky bugs over this coming winter. I added some extra vitamin C in the form of oranges and lemons just for good measure.
You won’t find elderberries in the shops – you’ll have to go out and pick your own – but luckily the countryside is bursting with elderberries at the moment. Just get out there with a bag and a pair of scissors and snip bunches of the blackest juiciest berries you can find. It’s pretty easy to spot them, but if you’re unsure ask a local expert.
My freshly picked and de-stalked elderberries
First, a very important word of warning – elderberries. their stems and their leaves are toxic when raw, so don’t be tempted to eat any whilst you pick. They contain cyanide and can cause sickness. Thankfully when you cook the berries they lose their toxicity, so you’re safe with this recipe as it calls for the berries and their juice to be cooked twice!
Picking the berries for your elderberry syrup recipe is the easy part. Once you’ve picked your berries you’ll need to remove them from their stalks. The best way to do this is to comb through the stalks with a fork into a bowl. When you’ve removed all the berries from the stalks you’ll find that quite a few berries still have little stalks on them. Unfortunately these have to be removed too, along with any unripe berries. This is quite a long and tedious job – it took me the best part of an hour going through all the berries with a fine tooth comb, but do persevere as the elderberry syrup is well worth this initial toil.
Elderberry Syrup Recipe
This winter I also plan on enjoying the elderberry syrup as a hot toddy with a shot of whisky and hot water! I’m looking forward to that on a cold evening, let me tell you! Alternatively you could drizzle over plain yoghurt or porridge, or even over ice-cream or pancakes. The possibilities of the syrup are endless! I’m going to make at least double the amount of elderberry syrup next year as we polished ours off pretty quickly!
Will you be elderberry picking this weekend?