Saturday, September 25, 2010

Wisdom of the Elders - Elderberries in the Northwest

It's the night of the harvest moon (I know, my post is a little late

This means that, come the daylight, it is time to harvest the Elderberries.  For this is also the beginning of flu season.  And while I will admit that jam, wine and various other culinary applications of these sky blue berries are not likely to cure the flu, several studies have shown that elderberry (S. nigra) extract increases flu recovery by 50% - 75%.  Which is not surprising since Elderberries contain extremely high concentrations of anthocyanins (anti-inflammatory) and flavinoids (antioxidant).  But I shall dispense with the nutritional chemistry lesson, for these luscious wild berries are destined for the culinary greatness, not medicinal application. 

Unless one follows the old addage, "a little wine for thy stomach sake", in which case one COULD consider the making of wine to be of medicinal use. ;)

Here in the Pacific NorthWest the two native varieties of Elderberry are the Blue Sambucus Cerulea, which is a subspecies of Sambucus Nigra (European Black Elderberry) and the Red Sambucus Callicarpa, a subspecies of Sambucus Racemosa.  Of the two, the blue berries are the most palatable, at least as far as I am concerned.  The red variety MUST be cooked due to the cyanide producing glucoside that is contained within the berries as well as the root, stems and leaves.  While the blue-black variety only contains these glucosides in the leaves, stems and roots.  Though I still would not eat them raw either and especially not when green.  But, heat breaks down the glucosides, rendering them inert.

And here I promised you there would be no chemistry lesson. Oops.

It's easiest to remove the berry sprays from the tree and then comb them from the stems with a fork.

Rinse the berries well, being sure to remove and stem bits, as these will produce a waxy substance when cooked.

Dry the berries and chill until ready to perform a little culinary magic.

Me?  I have something special planned for 2 cups of the berries before juicing the rest for wine and syrup.

Stay tuned!


1 comment:

Patti T. said...

MMmmmm elderberry wine, talk about nectar of the gods. You make me jealous, this was something else I always picked with my grandmother.