Elderberry is a large shrub native to the U.S. and Europe. The shrub produces fruits of an almost black purple color that are used in the production of wines, juices, jellies, jams and rich desserts. Elderberries themselves are quite bitter, so they are rarely eaten alone.
Elderberry is one of the most versatile and productive plants in the world of gardening. For generations they have offered shade, protection, beautiful flowers and tasty berries to their caretakers and wildlife.
Its characteristic cream-colored flowers are often seen on the roadside in late spring and early summer. Once the flowers are finished, clusters of rich fruits grow that ripen from mid-summer to early autumn.
Characteristics of elderberry
The elderberry tree can grow up to 6 meters, these have opposite, elongated and toothed leaves that measure approximately 8 to 10 centimeters, arranged in pairs with 5 to 7 leaves on each stem.
The flowers have rounded-tipped petals and there are five petals for each small flower. The flowers grow in umbels, which are a kind of umbrella-shaped clusters. Umbels are normally fifteen centimeters in diameter.
Elderberries are rounded, about 0.3 centimeters in diameter and the tip of the fruit has a lump where it formed from the flower. These grow in a cluster of up to 25 centimeters.
The propagation of this tree is best done by seeds, since cuttings have a lower success rate. This plant can tolerate different conditions such as poor soils or too wet areas. However, it does not tolerate drought.
Planting is best done in clay soils and with good drainage. Sandy soils should be improved by adding 5 to 10 cm of organic matter. When planting be sure to allow cross-pollination. Therefore, you can plant two or more bushes.
Plant the bushes in early spring one meter away from each other, in rows four to five meters apart from each other. Remember to water them every week by adding 2.5 to 5cm of water.
It is important not to prune or harvest until two years of growth. In this way, the bushes will grow and produce many fruits for you. In mid-August and September, there is a ripening period of 5-15 days. This is the ideal time to pick and enjoy the berries.
The leaves, stems, bark, and roots are toxic, so it’s important to be vigilant not to include any of these when processing elderberries or their flowers. It is important to consume the berries only when they are ripe. Immature fruits are poisonous and can lead to nausea.
It is recommended not to consume these raw fruits, always try to cook them. Avoid testing them directly from the tree. Do not confuse elderberry fruits with other berry-producing trees. They may look similar, but red berries of other species are known to be very toxic.
Elderberries have long been used as a remedy to treat and prevent all kinds of ailments. They contain compounds that prevent the flu virus from attaching to the body’s cells, so it can shorten the duration of illness and possibly decrease the severity.
They have antioxidant effects thanks to their phenolic content, it is also good to prevent diabetes and to reduce the inflammatory state and self-sustaining pancreatic insulitis. It is a good natural antidepressant. Its berries or flowers in syrup, tea or infusion are very healing and nutritious.
Robert Asprin, APD is a non-dieting Accredited Practicing Dietitian passionate about inspiring positive changes in eating and lifestyle behaviors to help improve health while nurturing relationships with food and body.