The elderberry is a shrub or tree that can grow up to 7 m high and is often very bushy and broad.
The elderberry likes to grow near houses or nestles up to them. The branches contain a soft marrow. Therefore, elder branches are also popular for building simple flutes.
From May to the end of June it unfolds its white flower umbels which smell widely. In late summer to autumn the black berries ripen.
The elder played an important role in medicine for thousands of years.
Even Hippocrates from Greece, who lived from 460 to 377 BC, praised the healing power of the elder. He even called it a ‘medicine cabinet’. He recommended it against constipation, dropsy and female complaints, treatments that are still typical for the Elderberry today.
North of the Alps, the elder was considered a sacred tree by the Celts and Germanic tribes and was dedicated to the patron goddess Mother Hulda. The good house spirits should live in the elder and protect the house and its inhabitants from damage. For this reason, elderberry should not be pruned nor felled, as this would rob the good household spirits of their dwelling. It is said that Judas hanged himself from an elder tree.
The soft bark of the trunks and branches is warty and has a slightly unpleasant smell like the unevenly pinnate leaves. The flowers have a fruity, spicy scent with an unmistakable aroma.
The flowers are collected as whole umbels and dried in the shade on a towel. Then one should rub them off the umbel stems and keep them dry and protected from light.
From the end of July the elderberries are ripe.
The juice from the ripe berries is the basis for a lot of delicious things. The berries must be processed soon after harvesting, because they tend to go mouldy. In the large fruited form of the Canadian Elder, S. canadensis ‘Maxima’, the umbels (paniculate corymb) reach a diameter of 30 cm.
Flower buds and fruit can be used as food.
Elderberry wine may only be made from ripe berries. It purifies the blood, helps with intestinal colic, stimulates the appetite and corrects circulatory disorders.
The tea of the blossoms, leaves and young shoots has a sweat and diuretic effect and eliminates toxins. It also has a supportive effect on diabetes. It supports a blood cleansing cure, has an effect against nerve inflammations and circulatory disorders. Recommendable are lilac flowers and elderberry marrow as tea for sweating.
Small elderberry pancakes
10 elderflower umbels, 150 grams of flour, type 1050, 2 eggs, 2 cups of mineral water, 1 tablespoon of olive oil, 1 tablespoon of sugar or honey, 1 pinch of salt, oil or butter for frying
Pick the elderflowers fresh and check for lice and insect infestation. Separate the eggs; beat the egg whites to a firm beaten egg white. Mix flour with egg yolk, mineral water, oil, sugar and salt to a dough and let it swell for 15 minutes. Now add the beaten egg white. Heat some oil in a frying pan. Dip the flower umbels in the dough and place them on the pan. Cut off the stems with scissors. Turn the pancake when it is golden brown from the bottom. Serve with elderflower syrup or rhubarb compote.
1kg elderberries, 1 tablespoon peppercorns, black, 2 tablespoons mustard seeds, 4 chilli peppers, red, 1 small onion, 100 g sultanas, 300 g sugar (candy), brown, 250 ml vinegar (red wine vinegar), 6 cloves, cardamom, pimento, salt
Strip the elderberries with a fork from the umbels into a wide pot. Crush the pepper and mustard seeds in a mortar. Cut the chillies in half and remove the seeds. Peel and finely dice the onion. Add crushed pepper and mustard seeds, chilli halves, diced onion, sultanas, rock candy, red wine vinegar, cloves, cardamom, pimento and salt to the berries. Let everything cook over medium heat for about one hour. Season if necessary, pour hot into twist-off glasses and close.
Info: The chutney will keep for 6 weeks in sealed glass jars. It goes well with short-roasted meat, meatballs, blinis, small cereal pancakes and vegetable burgers.
Elderberry ice cream
Bring the berries with red wine, lemon peel, cinnamon stick, cloves and sugar to boil and let it simmer at low heat for 10 minutes. Remove the spices and let the berries cool down. Blend them together with the liquid in a mixer and add the lemon juice. Whip the cream with vanilla sugar until stiff and add it loosely into the puree.
Beef roulades with elder stuffing
4 beef roulades, 8 tbsp chutney (elderberry), 1 onion, ½ pepper, red, 50 g bacon, diced, 250 ml meat stock, 1 tbsp tomato purée, salt and pepper.
Halve and finely dice the onion, set one half aside. Then finely dice the pepper. Roll out the roulades, spread 2 tbsp elderberry chutney on each and spread the onion, pepper and bacon cubes evenly on top. Season with salt and pepper, roll up and pin with toothpicks or similar or wrap with kitchen string.
Sear the roulades all over in the pressure cooker, add the remaining onion cubes, pour in the meat stock and stir in the tomato purée and the remaining 2 tbsp elderberry chutney. Close the lid, bring to the boil and simmer for approx. 20-25 min. When cool, open the lid and season the sauce with salt and pepper if necessary.
The flowers are also used as a flavouring component for drinks. Elderberry lemonade or syrup and elderberry sparkling wine are particularly widespread. The blossoms are placed in a sugar solution with lemon slices and filtered off after 2 days. During this time, the sugar solution has taken on the elderberry flavour. Bring to the boil briefly and fill into bottles to make the syrup. Fermented with less sugar, sparkling wine is obtained.
After eating many raw berries, sensitive people may feel unwell. Elderberries are rich in potassium, iron and manganese. Among the vitamins, vitamin E, vitamin K, vitamin C and vitamin B6 stand out. They also contain other health-boosting ingredients, such as the colouring agents quercetin and anthocyanins, which are responsible for the dark colour. Both substances protect the cells from ageing processes. Hot elderberry juice (e.g. with semolina gnocchi) helps to prevent colds, especially in the cold late autumn. The small blossoms, which form an inflorescence like those of the lilac, contain essential oils and sulphur; they stimulate breathing and help with pneumonia.
A good juice can also be made from red elderberry, e.g. in a steam juicer.
(This information cannot replace a visit to the doctor).