Saturday, July 25, 2009

Respect your Elder

From early June through early August we are frequently asked about our Elder tree. It is not a tree really more of a tall shrub but we have pruned it in such a way that it appears like a tree. Elderberry, Sambucus canadensis, is a native American herb with a wide variety of uses. Elder flowers are excellent for the skin. We often make a strong tea of the elder blossoms and use them to make a skin cream. Very soothing. Elderberries which we kindly share some with the birds are small but tasty in jellies and jams. The ripe blue black berries grow in clusters so it is easy to gather a bucket full. Rich in Vitamin A and C and a healthy source of minerals you want to eat only the ripe berries as the green ones and the twigs and leaves give a strong bellyache. The ripe berries are also used as a dye for wool, and of course elder wine, and also an organic blue dye stamp for meats. Sister Marj and I were traveling through Germany on a college age budget and were quite hungry early in the evening before any of the kitchens had even opened up. The bar owner kindly went and frittered us an Elder Flower to have as a snack. Later I found the recipe for frittered elder flowers in the good ole Joy of Cooking cookbook. Not only is this plant used medicinally and for culinary purposes but there is a lot of lore associated with this plant. It is said that the Elder-mother lives on the bottom of the plant and protects the wee folk around her. So before harvesting or pruning the elder it is always wise to announce your presence and intentions to the Elder mother. Just a tip. . . .

4 comments:

comfrey cottages said...

fantastic post!! thank you so much for sharing about elder! a wonderful plant that deserves more recognition!! big thankful hugs! :)

Marcia Elston said...

We are distilling the blossoms for hydrosol, wonderful as a skin toner/refresher and absolutely delightful in creams and lotions. (Not on the web, but on sale to those who post me or call.) There are still arguments whether Sambacus nigra isn't the superior species for medicinal use, and clinical studies at Carolinas Integrative Health show positive affects against flu with no side effects of negative interadtions. Only as a fluid extract, they report, "not grandma's elderberry jam or syrup". That said, our region abounds with native american usage of canadensis. If you have blue-black berries, Tina, you may have nigra, not canadensis, whose berries are deep red. I'll send you pics of mine when the fruit is ripe . . . let's compare. Frittered flower sounds luscious . . . going to try it.
Marcia Elston
http://www.wingedseed.com

Maebius said...

We have three huge "Grandma Elder" shrubs in our land, and each year I make jelly and the most wonderful cordial for winter coughs from the berries (just add vodka, honey, and a few cloves.) Love the picture of your plant here. :)

Rosemary said...

Susanna responding here...

Maebius - Thanks for the reminder to make Elderberry cordial! It almost makes haveing a cough fun.....

Marcia - Good to know where we can aquire some elder hydrosol. We have the blue/black Elderberry Sambucus nigra ssp canadensis. It is my understanding the red elder is Sambucus racemosa ssp pubens and it is native to Europe/Asia. The elder in our garden is Native to the North America. We agree the blue/black is superior.