How to Harvest and Preserve Elderberry

  • jack Officer
  • May 24, 2023

Because the late summer season sniffles simmer down and crisp fall winds start blowing via the air, it’s time to take into consideration making ready for the upcoming chilly and flu season – which, for me, contains harvesting and making ready my favourite winter treatments.

A hand at the right of the frame grasps a cluster of ripe, dark purple elderberries growing on a bush with green foliage in bright sunlight, printed with green and white text at the midpoint and the bottom of the frame.

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And meaning… it’s time to harvest elderberries!

Right here’s what’s to return on this information:

This enchanting deciduous shrub is embellished with clusters of small white flowers within the spring, which finally become bundles of tiny black or purple berries. Within the wild, you’ll have a tendency to seek out them in moist and swampy areas, usually in disturbed locations.

Boasting a mess of marvelous makes use of, this plant is an extremely supportive medicinal winter treatment touted by many herbalists and practitioners of conventional drugs, to not point out it makes for delectable jams, pies, and even wine!

Folklore and Magical Historical past

In historic Celtic traditions of Northern Europe, elders had been revered bushes, cherished as presents from the “Elder Mom” goddess who was believed to reside contained in the plant.

They had been regarded as a window into the soul of bushes, defending forests and the those that cared for them, and so they had been usually planted round homes and farms to guard the land and the gardens. Reducing one down or burning its sacred wooden was thought-about extremely taboo.

In Danish and German folklore, previous to chopping, it was essential to ask the Elder Mom for permission, or else danger coming into misfortune. In Eire, chopping down the elder tree was forbidden.

Ripe clusters of black elderberries pictured on the shrub in the late afternoon sunshine. Soft focus landscape behind, and leaf detail in the foreground.

Upon the introduction of Christianity, nevertheless, the fame of the elder modified. The Elder Mom turned feared as a witch, and this resulted in a brand new affiliation with evil.

In Scotland, elder wooden was positioned above entryways to guard houses from depraved spirits. In England and Germany, bringing the wooden of an elder into the house was thought to draw ghosts and witches. And in Eire, the elder turned feared as a cursed tree; placing elder wooden in a fireplace was mentioned to draw the satan.

Although its cultural significance has fluctuated throughout time and house, one factor appears to be agreed upon: elder is a plant of magic and energy!

Maybe because of this, in J. Okay. Rowling’s novel Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, the Elder Wand is taken into account probably the most revered and highly effective of all magical objects. On this fictional world, elder wooden was not generally utilized in wandmaking, and it was mentioned that solely a “extremely uncommon” witch or wizard can be matched with it.

Medicinal Use

Elder has a protracted historical past of therapeutic use in lots of locations all through the world. Each the flowers and berries are used medicinally for a wide range of illnesses.

Loaded with antioxidants and vitamin C, elderberries are antimicrobial, offering total assist and safety to the immune system.

As famous by Maria Noel Groves in her guide, Physique into Steadiness: an Natural Information to Holistic Self-Care, the fruits comprise chemical compounds that block receptor websites that are utilized by viruses to invade cells.

Physique into Steadiness: An Natural Information to Holistic Self-Care

Elderberry drugs is subsequently usually taken repeatedly or acutely throughout the winter months as a preventative for colds, flu, fevers, chills, congestion, and common malaise.

The fruits are similar to Tamiflu and have some means to inhibit H1N1 influenza.

As cited by David Hoffman in his guide Medical Herbalism: The Science Ideas and Practices Of Natural Medication, plenty of scientific research have confirmed the advantages of elderberry towards chilly and flu.

Medical Herbalism: The Science Ideas and Practices of Natural Medication

This long-respected plant has made a resurgence in well-liked tradition in recent times. Today, syrups and tablets could be discovered on vitamin cabinets in lots of co-ops and pharmacies.

On the left, a cluster of elderberries still on the stem overflows from a ceramic bowl. Next to it, a jar of elderberry jam with a spoon, and a bottle of elderberry syrup. In the foreground, a jar of cooked elderberries in liquid next to a white bowl of the same. Front left shows elderberries off the stalks on a cutting board.

It’s far more rewarding to make your individual drugs, although, and I discover the method to be each calming and fulfilling.

When to Harvest

Elderberry shrubs bloom over the summer season from June to August, relying on the local weather. Right here in central Vermont, they have a tendency to flower in August. The berries quickly observe, ripening in late August or early September.

Be certain that to reap the fruits when they’re absolutely ripe. That is necessary as a result of the berries are mildly poisonous earlier than they’ve absolutely ripened. The fruit of each S. nigra and S. canadensis ought to be a darkish purple or black in colour, delicate, and juicy. Unripe ones will look inexperienced or pale purple.

Close up of a cluster of unripe elderberries, some of the fruit green, others a light purple, on the shrub. Soft focus leaves provide the background, and part of the foreground.

Observe that even the ripe berries shouldn’t be eaten uncooked. Based on Maria Noel Groves, the method of cooking or drying ripe berries will break down any remaining poisonous chemical compounds that would irritate the digestive tract.

If you’re occupied with studying extra about pure natural treatments utilizing elderberry and different homegrown or foraged components, Groves’ guide is offered on Amazon.

Close up of ripe, deep purple elderberries on pink stems with a background of bright green leaves, some in soft focus.

Generally the berries can look purple on the surface however nonetheless be under-ripe inside. To inform if they’re absolutely ripe, strive squeezing a berry and inspecting its juice. Whether it is prepared, it will likely be a deep purple. The juice of unripe berries seems to be pale and watery.

It’s a good suggestion to do that squeeze take a look at on one or two berries on every cluster that you simply snip.

Should you additionally need to harvest the flowers, accumulate them when they’re in full bloom, however don’t harvest all of them otherwise you gained’t get any fruits!

Should you aren’t rising any elder shrubs of your individual, you may search for wild vegetation in bogs, alongside stream beds, or on the sides of disturbed areas.

Close up detail of red elderberries on the stem with background of leaves in soft focus.

A phrase of warning: Crimson elderberry (S. racemosa) is poisonous and shouldn’t be consumed. It occurs to look similar to different varieties, the important thing distinction being that it flowers earlier within the spring, round the time that lilacs bloom. It additionally bears its vivid purple or purple fruit earlier within the summertime.

The way to Harvest

To reap the berries, reduce total clusters with pruning shears, just under the bottom of the fruits.

Vertical image of ripe elderberry fruit hanging from the shrub, with leaf detail. On a soft focus background of green vegetation.

Acquire the clusters in a basket, bucket, or plastic bag.

As soon as the berries are harvested, they have to be faraway from the stems. The stems and leaves are poisonous and shouldn’t be consumed.

A green, distressed wood countertop with freshly harvested deep purple elderberries, still on the leafy stem, overflowing from a wicker basket. A few leaves to the left, with a brick background in soft focus.

Bonus Tip: As a substitute of trying to take away every berry from the stems individually, a painful and tedious job, place total clusters within the freezer for a couple of hours. As soon as frozen, you may simply shake the fruit off the branches into bowls or luggage.


Elderberries must be cooked, dried, or processed indirectly earlier than they are often consumed safely. Like many different components of the plant, the berries are mildly poisonous when eaten uncooked.

Whereas consuming a couple of uncooked ones gained’t kill you, it should doubtless go away you with an disagreeable abdomen ache and a few unlucky nausea. Higher to not danger it!

Close up of a jar of elderberry syrup, with a spoon beside, on a floral fabric. To the left, the wooden counter top is visible, and soft focus ripe elderberries in the background.

Fortunately, there isn’t a lack of engaging methods to protect and use elderberries. They are often made into medicinal syrups, alcohol- or glycerin-based tinctures, gummies, or cough drops. Fruits could be decocted for tea or infused in honey.

For one thing scrumptious to eat, they will even be preserved as jams and jellies, or baked into pies.

And don’t neglect about candy elderberry wine!


Clear the fruits by putting them in a pot of water, letting particles float to the highest. Scoop out something you may with a strainer, after which filter the berries from the water utilizing a colander.

Let the fruit drip dry within the colander or on a paper towel for a few hours to take away any extra moisture, after which unfold them out in a single layer on a drying tray.

As soon as they’re clear, there are a couple of methods to dry elderberries:

  • Dry them in full solar, protecting them with a display screen to forestall birds and bugs from stealing the berries. This methodology ought to take a couple of days.
  • Place trays within the oven on the nice and cozy setting for about half an hour, checking sometimes till berries are absolutely dried
  • Dry them in just some hours, utilizing an electrical dehydrator.

For extra dehydrator preservation ideas, take a look at the information to dehydrating the backyard’s bounty on our sister website, Foodal.

Full frame close up of wrinkled, dehydrated elderberries.

It doesn’t matter what methodology you select, examine to be sure that the berries are shriveled and crinkly to make sure that they’ve dried absolutely and are prepared for additional processing or storage.

Strive urgent one along with your finger. If any moisture is current, maintain drying!

Retailer in a sealed glass jar in a cool darkish location, reminiscent of a pantry or cellar.


Clear recent fruits in a water bathtub much like that described above for drying.

Freeze in tightly sealed jars or zip-top luggage till you’re able to course of and use them.

When you have already pre-frozen clusters ready for straightforward stem removing, wash after which refreeze the person berries as quickly as doable. In any other case, you danger creating an enormous, messy mass of berries.

Making Medication

My favourite approach to make use of elderberries is to make my very own medicinal syrup, a course of I discover to be simple and enjoyable!

To Make Syrup

First, mix 1 half clear fruit with 4 components water in a saucepan. Carry to a boil over excessive warmth. Flip down the warmth and simmer for 30-40 minutes. The ensuing liquid ought to be darkish purple in colour

Close up of a metal pot on a stove, with elderberries immersed in liquid.

Subsequent, take away the decoction from the warmth and let it steep for about an hour.

Pressure the juice utilizing cheesecloth, a colander with small holes, or a nut milk bag. Squeeze the bag to get better as a lot of the liquid as doable. Set it apart to chill.

Measure the ultimate liquid quantity, and add 50% of that quantity in honey to create a syrup.

As soon as the combination is absolutely cool, you can even select so as to add alcohol, which might enormously improve the syrups shelf life. Add 20% of the ultimate liquid quantity for the very best holding high quality. Vodka works effectively, or another impartial alcohol you like.

A wooden kitchen counter, with a wicker basket of elderberries on the stem. A small glass bowl of them without the stem. An open bottle of elderberry wine in the foreground and leaves scattered around.

And that’s all there’s to it! Bottle it up and stick it within the fridge or the freezer till these icy winter winds arrive.

Tip: Elderberry could be mixed with many different herbs and spices for added medicinal advantages or taste. Strive a tasty addition of cinnamon, lemon, and ginger!

The syrup can final a couple of months within the fridge, longer if made with alcohol. In any other case, it’s a nice thought to freeze it in ice dice trays and defrost separately as wanted.

For full step-by-step instructions, take a look at this elderberry syrup recipe from Hilda’s Kitchen Lavatory.

To Make a Tincture

Tincturing is one other of my favourite methods to protect and make the most of this fruit.

Simply fill a jar with tightly packed berries and pour in a impartial alcohol to cowl. Vodka that’s 100 proof or larger is finest.

Fresh ripe elderberries on the stems, in the foreground and soft focus background. With a small bottle of elderberry tincture on wooden counter.

Seal the jar and retailer in a darkish place, shaking every single day for at the very least a couple of weeks. Pressure out the berries and bottle it up.

Should you choose to not use alcohol, you may make a glycerite tincture as an alternative, by changing the alcohol within the tincture with vegetable glycerin.

A Observe of Warning:

As all the time, this text shouldn’t be meant as medical recommendation. Please seek the advice of your well being care skilled earlier than beginning natural treatments or dietary supplements.

Cooking and Recipe Concepts

This Thanksgiving, why not strive making an elderberry pie? Baking these candy and bitter fruits in a heat and flaky pie crust actually brings out the beautiful and distinctive taste. All your visitors can be impressed!

A wooden outdoor table, with leaves in the background. Three jars of jam next to a bottle of home made wine, with an enamel bowl overflowing with elderberries. In the foreground is a spice grater and a pink plate of cinnamon and star anise.

Wish to strive your hand at brewing up some elderberry wine? Earlier than diving in, take a look at this text on Foodal about making wine at house.

Ward Off These Winter Blues

Don’t get slowed down by the winter blues this yr! Shield and nourish your self with elderberry as an alternative.

Whether or not you need to assist your immune system with plant drugs, take pleasure in fresh-brewed do-it-yourself wine, or beat back spirits, this magical plant is for you!

Do you may have expertise preserving and utilizing elderberry? Share your ideas and questions within the feedback under.

Close up of ripe purple elderberries growing wild on the green, leafy shrub in bright sunshine.

Should you discovered this information helpful, you’ll additionally discover some helpful elderberry data right here:

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