You’ll find a decent amount of confusion on the internet about whether elderberries are edible, especially raw elderberries. amzn_assoc_placement = "adunit0"; This is fantastic info! You need to know before you prune whether your variety of elderberry produces fruit on first-year or older canes. However, as mentioned before, they can be toxic if not cooked properly, or if the other parts of the plants are consumed. The juice and fruit is edible, but the seeds are toxic. Elderberries are one of the easiest and most versatile shrubs to grow in your edible landscape. The ones used in the studies you’ve probably heard about are Sambucus nigra, which grows primarily in Europe. The flowers are easier to spot from afar than the berries, so locating and positively identifying elderberry plants during elderflower season might be a good idea if you can. I created this post to share my own discoveries about the Red Elderberry and foster some further discussion in the comments below about the edible and toxic parts of … Distribution and habitat. Dwarf elder is also sometimes mistaken for common elder. Remember that if you take all the flowers, you won’t have any berries. “You have a paradise here,” she said. I get so many questions about how to use elderberries that I wrote a short downloadable guide to using elderberries safely and effectively. This means you’ll see woody stems with bark. This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Red elderberry is poisonous for humans and should not be eaten. Red elderberry (Sambucus racemosa) in North America and dwarf elderberry (Sambucus ebulus) in Europe. Ever foraged elderberries before? Here are some top choices for edible weeds and some remedies that may be growing your in your yard this very minute. Elderberries are easy to find in many parts of the world, and they’re really fun to forage. Elderberries do respond well to pruning, but different plants fruit on different year’s growth (typically first or third), and with wild plants you can’t be sure what you’ve got. Here are some very detailed write-ups about some plants you don’t want to eat: There are other plants one could mistake for elder if you’re really not paying attention to elderberry’s identifying features. Those might not be the best choice if you’re after the health benefits of elderberries. The stems, leaves, and roots of the Black Elder, Sambucus nigra, are all poisonous to humans, as are the seeds of the Sambucus racemosa, red elderberries if eaten raw. If they don’t droop, take care, as you may have found the herbaceous dwarf elder (Sambucus ebulus), which can make you very ill. They’re more common in Europe but can also be found in North America. Such foods are not considered additives in the European Union, even when they are only used for the purpose of coloring. Deer and elk will eat the foliage, bark and buds, but Red Elderberry is usually not a preferred browse; palatability increases after frost and probably varies with relative cyanide content of individual plants. amzn_assoc_ad_type = "smart"; They've been comestibles, beverages, and medicine, as well as aesthetic ornamentation. The stems, leaves, and roots are poisonous, and ingestion can cause vomiting and diarrhea. Cerulea berries have a more blue than purple-black color and typically have a whitish coating of a naturally-occurring yeast, great if you want to make elderberry wine. Many years ago, after my wife and I had established our first homestead, a friend came out to visit. In the case of larger varieties, you will also have an easier time harvesting if you keep the plants smaller. Also, I’d like to point out that, at least around Northern California, the edible elderberries are mexican, or blue, elderberries (Sambucus mexicana), and are red when unripe, whereas the red elderberries around here, ripe or no, are toxic (the jury is still out on how toxic, but I don’t want to be the guy who finds out). They will still be considered as ingredients and listed as such. Please see our privacy policy for more details. Your email address will not be published. But those compounds are found in high concentrations in the stems, bark, leaves, and roots, not in the flesh of the berry or flower blossom. I can’t tell you how many online photos I’ve found labeled elderberry that aren’t. The Red elderberry (Sambucus racemosa var. racemose), which seems to be the variety that gets a bad rap for being poisonous, is as edible as the other elderberry varieties. Why? Elderberries are an excellent source of vitamins A and C, dietary fiber, minerals, and antioxidants. documented case of poisoning by elderberry, research done at the University of Missouri, Elderflower vs. Pyracantha, Cow Parsley and Cow Bane, Honey Elderflower Tea :: paleo, GAPS, low carb option, Elderflower & Elderberry Uses | Homespun Seasonal Living, DIY Bath Salts ~ Absurdly Easy Homemade Gift, Uses for Lemon Balm, a Delicious Medicinal Herb. (The wild ones in my area tend to be small and lacking in flavor.). Want some super-simple ways to live healthier now? We purchased land that was pretty much untouched as far as wild edibles went. What a resource to stumble upon! […] to have elderberry growing in your yard and you’re wondering where to forage for it, this post on elderberry identification by Susannah Shmurak is quite […], […] any foraging adventure – make 100% sure of your elderberry identification before ingesting either the flower or the […], Your email address will not be published. Elderberries are full of antioxidants and vitamins, they've been used in a variety of applications throughout history. HealthyGreenSavvy is committed to protecting your privacy. If you have loads more and aren’t sure what to do with them, be sure to check out these 20 uses for elderberries! After spending months playing with wild-harvested elderberries and talking to growers around the country, I’ve decided that getting some elderberries going in our teeny edible yard is very much worth doing, even though there are more than enough elderberries to forage around these parts. So you’ve got your elderberry identification down, now it’s time to go out and forage! Elderberries are still a bit unusual in terms of edible gardening. (Just please bring one of those expert guides, OK?). Elderberry is a woody shrub, not a herbaceous plant. Her first book, Everything Elderberry, released in September 2020 and has been a #1 new release in holistic medicine, naturopathy, herb gardening, and other categories. Here’s what to know about foraging mulberries and juneberries. Red Elderberries, Sambucus racemosa Some references say red elderberries are edible, some say they are not. Here’s what you need to know about elderberry identification before you set out on an elderberry foraging adventure. Both poisonous and edible. For varieties fruiting on first-year canes, some growers recommend cutting all canes to ground level annually or every other year, which will encourage the plant to produce fewer but larger berry clusters that will ripen more evenly. Here’s a map showing where canadensis grows and another showing where cerulea may be found. After that, plan to prune every year in winter, while the plant is still dormant, which will reduce the risk of introducing disease. amzn_assoc_region = "US"; Elderflowers grow in clusters of hundreds of tiny blossoms forming a flattened flowerhead that’s pretty distinctive. Cooked ripe elderberries are perfectly edible. See images here. Second, a lot of the plants here are in places I’d rather not forage from, like the railroad tracks, where it’s likely weed killer has been sprayed. However, the seeds of the red elderberry contain hydrocyanic acid, leading to cyanide so if you eat them in abundance, you will get very sick…or die. They’ll still give you some flowers and fruit, but they haven’t been selected for excelling in flavor and yield. Farmer’s Almanac says today is good to prune to encourage growth, so I’m curious . Two types of elderberry not generally recommended for consumption Red elderberry (Sambucus racemosa) in North America and dwarf elderberry (Sambucus ebulus) in Europe. As you walk or drive in early summer, keep your eyes peeled for shrubs bearing white flowers. Identify Wild Edible Elderberries Before foraging, learn how to correctly identify American, European, blue, and red elder plants to avoid their toxic look-alikes. Hank Shaw published an article at Hunter Angler Gardener Cook on elderberry fritters. Here’s a photo: Elderberry bark is grey, with occasional lenticels, which are raised bumps that allow gases to pass through. Sign up for my twice-monthly newsletter using the form below and get free e-books as a welcome to the HGS community. I’m working on a magazine article about growing elderberries, which I will link to here once it’s published. Although archeologists have proven that some early cultures did indeed consume red-berried elders, they did so only after removing the tiny seeds from the flesh. Elderberry shrubs will sucker and try to take over a larger area, so pruning will prevent them from crowding out other plants and help your shrubs maintain a tidier appearance. Elderberries are one of the most beneficial berries out there in our local wilderness. You can get yours by filling in the form below. Squirrels, mice, raccoons, and bears also eat the fruit. Berry picking expeditions are great outings for the family and all will enjoy the fruits of their labor in one of its many tasty forms. They’re not as easy to spot from a distance as the flowers are. Required fields are marked *. Love foraging and green living hacks? You can see what they look like here. The whole elder is toxic; the leaves, bark, root and berries. Ever found elderberry growing in your foraging expeditions? Ever heard of Elderberry Wine? One easy way to tell them apart: The flower head and berry clusters of the red elderberry are conical (like a cone) rather than flat like elderberry, as the photos below show. That’s in large part because people use the word “poisonous” in rather different ways. Red elderberry bears bright red fruit. Sometimes the ones the birds have already cleared will be more visible because their red stems stand out. Let’s learn how to identify elderberry plants so you’re ready to forage delicious and medicinal flowers and berries this summer! Her work has appeared in Mother Earth Living, Ensia, Northern Gardener, Sierra, and on numerous websites. Do you like to forage? To positively identify elderberry, you’ll want to consider the plant’s growth habit, bark, and the arrangement of its leaves in addition to the shape of the individual flowers, flower clusters, and the arrangement of berries. If you’ve got a pliable green plant, you haven’t got an elderberry and may have stumbled upon one of its more toxic look-alikes. Unripe elderberries are poisonous. Nurseries in my area tend to emphasize the more “ornamental” varieties, which won’t be the best choice if what you’re after is flavorful and abundant fruit. Did you know there are likely edible and medicinal plants growing in your yard right now? Here’s lots more on the benefits of elderflower and how to use it to make delicious treats of all sorts. Now, compounds in the elderberry plant can make you very sick indeed, and in large enough quantities they could be fatal. Not so! See how they aim skyward? amzn_assoc_tracking_id = "healthycom0f-20"; Something poisonous may merely make you feel lousy, or it may kill you. Flowering and Berry Production Elderberries can be raised in the home garden or picked from wild bushes. Notice that they’re triangles, not the round, flat cymes you’ll see on elderberry plants. If you have a nice haul of elderberries and aren’t sure what to do with them, let me suggest putting up a batch of this research-backed homemade elderberry syrup and drizzling it on these delicious elderberry overnight oats. Though they have been used medicinally in the past (often as emetics, meaning they make you vomit), foraging experts recommend avoiding them. amzn_assoc_ad_mode = "manual"; Some used the berry to make wine. Learn how your comment data is processed. Last, if the berries are right there in my permaculture garden, I can watch them closely and gather them before the birds do, or even cover them with netting to protect my harvest. Pruning can also encourage new canes to grow, creating a more productive plant. Red Elderberries. Here’s the info on pruning from my new book, Everything Elderberry: Though in the wild, elderberry shrubs go unpruned except by high winds and wildlife, in the home landscape you’ll want to keep your elderberries pruned for several reasons. You might try pruning some and see how they do, but usually it’s recommended you wait till winter when they’re dormant. The Herbal Academy has an online foraging course that teaches plant identification and ethical wildcrafting practices. However, some people are very sensitive to smaller amounts of these compounds, and to avoid severe stomach upset, they should consume only cooked berries, and those only in moderation. Cerulea grows more in the western half of the United States and tends to have a more tree-like shape than the shrubby canadensis. Elderberries are particularly rich in flavonoids, especially anthocyanins. Red Elderberries are very seedy and the Kwakwaka’wakw, who generally believed it was rude to drink water during or directly after a feast, made an exception for Red Elderberries so that people could rinse the seeds out of their mouth (Boas 1921, pgs 564-566). Log in, Website Design by Pacific Online Promotion Strategies. Before we move on to adding elderberries to your edible landscape, we should address the potential toxicity of the genus as a whole and the red-berried types in particular. Canadensis berries will likely be less problematic than nigra berries, but it’s nigra you will find more commonly used in commercially-prepared syrups and powders. If you buy dried berries or flowers, you may find a decent amount of stem material, so be sure to pick it out. It contains information on elderberries and elderflowers you can’t find anywhere else. As an Amazon Associate I earn a small commission from qualifying purchases. Are Elderberry Stems Poisonous?. Elderberry identification photo credits: Susannah Shmurak, Susannah Shmurak, RitaE, born1945, Hardyplants, Steve Bidmead, Edal Anton Lefterov, EM80, Capri23auto, Susannah Shmurak, Susannah Shmurak. I’m very excited to learn more. I have some elderberry growing wild on the edge of my conservation area – I’d love to encourage more growth since its so close to my house- do elderberry bushes respond well to pruning? Filed Under: Foraging Tagged With: foraging, superfoods. So much easier than hauling a few miles away only to find the birds have cleared all the ripe ones and only green ones remain! Berries can be red in colour but this is less common. No pruning is necessary in the first two growing seasons. Preparations that strain out the seeds will likely be easier on sensitive stomachs. amzn_assoc_marketplace = "amazon"; The leaves are compound leaves that are arranged always with two compound leaves growing opposite of each other. You’ll find some additional ones to know below. The short answer is "yes" with precautions. Red elderberries when Ripe and Cooked can be eaten. amzn_assoc_search_bar = "true"; If you’re on a local email list, see if anyone in your area knows where they grow. Mom pointed out a copse of elderberry bushes along the side of our property. Be sure to check out all the awesome elderberry and elderflower products these growers make as well. Some references state that certain people are sensitive and should not eat them. They are a hedgerow plant and grow on small shrubs. Find more recommended products here. Consult lots of photos and train yourself to notice the sometimes subtle differences between plants. Red elderberry shrubs produce yellowish-white flowers in May. Blueberries as a food crop have been improved by people for thousands of years. If you want to get some of the less widely-available varieties (likely not stocked by your local nurseries), you may need to pre-order in fall. Bears will also eat the foliage and th… amzn_assoc_title = "Great Foraging Guides"; Remember, anytime you forage, you need to be sure to use multiple features to correctly identify a plant. or if they’re at the edge of a field or a stream or along the roadside, they’re elderflowers. In the meantime, I highly recommend checking out the plants and cuttings you can get from local growers or from these wonderful elderberry farms, which will ship cuttings in late winter and plants in early spring: If you’re reading this later in the winter, you may find that their cuttings and plants are already out of stock. Aralia plants also bear purple, fleshy fruit that can look similar to elderberries. These compounds are far less prevalent in the North American varieties (canadensis) than the European ones (nigra), according to research done at the University of Missouri. In addition to their culinary uses, elderberries are commonly used in cough syrups. The lone documented case of poisoning by elderberry responsible for this caution about elderberry consumption dates from 1983, when 11 people drank fresh-pressed elderberry juice made with leaves and branches, which contain far higher amounts of the alkaloids and glucosides that can cause problems. Elderberries have lots of culinary uses such as crumbles, pies, jams and liqueurs. In drier climates, you may see cerulea called mexicana. Advertisement. The leaves of elderberries are arranged in a pattern called compound pinnate, which means rather than having individual leaves, like a maple tree, elderberries have compound leaves made of multiple leaflets, usually 5-11 in number. Sambucus racemosa is a species of elderberry known by the common names red elderberry and red-berried elder. Elderberries are a low-calorie food packed with antioxidants. What types of elderberry plants are suited to your region? Susannah is a proud garden geek and energy nerd who loves healthy food and natural remedies. What can elderberries be used for? But if you’re in the US it’s likely they’re canadensis, which I think mainly fruit on first-year canes. It depends on how poisonous it is. Each blossom has 5 petals and 5 stamens, which you can see in the photo below. More about me and my green projects here. Glad you found this information helpful! Though they have been used medicinally in the past (often as emetics, meaning they make you vomit), foraging experts recommend avoiding them. They have smaller flower clusters, approximately 3 to 5 inches in size. These Central European and North American natives are often found growing wild along roadsides, forest edges, and abandoned fields. HealthyGreenSavvy is all about shortcuts to a healthier, greener life. Elderberries have been used medicinally in the past, taken as strong purgatives or applied externally for skin disorders. Red Elderberry does not do well in warm climates. They felt terrible, but all quickly recovered, according to the report from the CDC. The native North American varieties are Sambucus canadensis and Sambucus cerulea, and researchers believe they have similar properties to their European cousins. You may have some of these 150 edible flowers growing near you as well. The unripe berries and the seeds in the ripe berries contain the toxic substance, which means that the berries shouldn’t be eaten raw. In my area, if they’re near a house, they tend to be those common white hydrangeas (not for eating!) Using a clean, sharp shears, prune any broken or dead canes. Blue and black elderberries can be eaten raw, however some people find that uncooked elderberries cause an upset stomach (red elderberries must be cooked before being ingested). Red elderberry has some similar features to the common black elderberry. As soon as the fruit ripens hundreds of elderberry form a single cluster. Pin to save this info on elderberry identification for later! amzn_assoc_linkid = "b0493c9571ce925b13fb2adc6f0b0f9c"; Also make sure that if you’re harvesting on public lands, you’ll want to check what rules about foraging might apply. Berries tend to ripen at summer’s end. Start, Elderberry Identification: Learn the difference between elderberry and plants that some people might mistake for elderberry, « Try these Strawberry Companion Plants for the Best Harvest Ever, What to Stock in Your Healthy Kitchen So You’re Always Prepared  ». First, I learned about numerous varieties that will produce bigger, more flavorful berries than the ones I can find growing wild and I’m dying to try them. Clean pruners after use and destroy any infected canes to discourage the spread of disease. Use by wildlife: Old Skykomish chiefs reportedly ordered people not to burn brush where Red Elderberries grew because the deer ate the ripe berries. We have them growing around local farms and parks and along the train tracks, though I’ve heard roadsides and train tracks tend to get sprayed for weed control. You may encounter several types of Elderberry (Sambucus spp.). 100 grams of fresh berries contain 73 calories, 18.4 grams of carbs and less than 1 gram each of fat and protein ( 3 ). For human consumption you need the black elderberry, Sambucus canadensis. amzn_assoc_asins = "0976626608,1402767153,039592622X,0688114253"; Or consider finding a veteran forager, who can help teach you to correctly identify elderberries. Find out more and grab your copy here. The flowers and ripe, cooked fruits are edible. Cooking the berries also improves their flavor. Story by John Moody | July / August 2020 . You've come to the right place! Bradford Angier, a well-known Canada-based forager, said eating a lot of raw, whole, red elderberries gave him “digestive upsets.” Angier lived off the land for years at a time, so he is a man of practical information. People who haven’t done much foraging don’t always realize how many plants bear similarities to one another, and they assume if they’ve found a purple-black berry that it’s ok to eat. If the plant has spikes or thorns on the stems and branches, it is most likely an aralia plant and you should not eat the berries since they are mildly poisonous. My mom, a natural forager, went with me to take a look at the land. Giant hogweed, as its name implies, is HUGE, and really looks nothing like elderberry except for the fact it has white flowerheads. Elderberries have distinctly tart and acidic flavor and somewhat tart taste. Each of these has different U.S. Department of Agriculture Plant Hardiness Zones where they will thrive. But if the berries are boiled for at least 15 - … The Red variety prefers cooler climates and can even grow in zone 1. As part of my research for my book, Everything Elderberry, I talked to experts in the field at length to understand the ins and outs of elderberry’s poisonous possibilities. For all elderberries unripe fruits and any part of the stem, leaf or root are toxic and should not be eaten. Probably. Edible uses of elderberry. Edible berries and flower are used for medicine, dyes for basketry, arrow shafts, flute, whistles, clapper sticks, and folk medicine. Some people say … Its berries, which are poisonous if eaten raw, are said to be safe to eat when cooked and were reportedly used as an ingredient in a variety of recipes by Native Americans. It involved months of research, dozens of interviews, and a ton of kitchen experiments. Elderberry bushes have edible flowers and berries. While the overall effect of compound leaves and delicate sprays of flowers is similar, the shape of the flowerhead is an easy way to identify false spirea. Edible: Leaves Good Fall color Leaves fragrant Gold foliage Evergreen Bark Showy: Wildlife value Attract hummingbirds Attract butterflies Attract birds Poisonous Foliage Fruit : Description With its lacy foliage, large white flower clusters and brilliant red berry clusters, Red Elderberry is a showy shrub that makes a wonderful addition to the native plant garden. If you’re foraging during flower season, typically in May-June (though it will vary depending on your regional climate), investigate the shape of the flowerhead, which you’ll sometimes hear called an umbel or cyme. Today few people eat Red Elderberries on account of their slightly bitter-pungent flavor. Elderberry scientifically recognized as Sambucus nigra is truly a delightful and beneficial fruit. If your variety does not fruit on first-year canes, prune canes more than three years old, which will not produce as much fruit as younger canes. When you buy from partners below, HealthyGreenSavvy earns a small commission AT NO COST TO YOU. Added bonus: Did you know the flowers of the elderberry plant are also edible and considered useful medicinally? Additionally, pruning increases airflow, which can help to prevent disease. You may be surprised how many people keep tabs on such things! They’re arranged opposite one another on an axis, with one on the end, attached by little to no stem (or petiole). Get a good foraging guide and make absolutely certain you have the right plant before sampling. The elderberry bush is poisonous. My first experience with elderberries came when my husband and I moved to the country to build our first home. Edible purplish-black fruit ripens in drooping clusters late summer and they measure 3–5 mm in diameter. We have both red and blue elderberries in Utah and both are valuable and edible. A decent number of other plants out there have purple berries or clusters of tiny white flowers, and some are poisonous. It is native to Europe, northern temperate Asia, and North America across Canada and the United States. Those are not affiliate links, by the way, and I earn nothing from purchases you make. Always make sure you have permission, whether on public or private land. Not so the modest elderberry. The University of Wisconsin at Green Bay Herbarium lists the berries as not edible. Raw berries can cause nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea, among other symptoms, so be sure to cook them before eating. Hi, I'm Susannah, a garden geek, energy nerd, and fan of healthy food and natural remedies. Depending on where you live, you will likely find different types of elderberry plants growing wild near you. So please remember: Just because you see dark berries or pretty flower sprays does NOT mean you’ve found an elderberry. The Red elderberry (Sambucus racemosa var. Tip: Elderberries are edible and are often used in recipes and homeopathic remedies. Elderberries are one of the easiest shrubs to grow. Not only are they attractive plants, but they yield edible flowers and fruit high in vitamins A, B and C. Native to Central Europe and North America, the shrubs are commonly found growing along the road, forest edges and abandoned fields. I just really enjoyed talking to these growers and think they’re doing some very cool stuff! Sambucus nigra, or black elder, is the most commonly used plant for elderflower harvest. They tend to be long and serrated. Herbaceous rather than woody, dwarf elder’s less-flat berry clusters don’t droop the way the flatter heads of common elderberry do. And greener today is good to prune to encourage growth, so I ’ m curious the CDC and in. 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As far as wild edibles went sure you have the right plant before.! That can look similar to elderberries be small and lacking in flavor and.! Article at Hunter Angler Gardener Cook on elderberry identification before you prune whether your variety of elderberry plants so ’... My twice-monthly newsletter using the form below are poisonous, and pigeons you from! “ poisonous ” in rather different ways been selected for excelling in flavor and somewhat tart.... First homestead, a friend came out to visit this summer elderberry a. To identify elderberry plants are suited to your region the word “ ”... Poisonous may merely make you feel lousy, or black elder, is the most used! Stems, Roots, Green berries or red elderberries on account of their slightly bitter-pungent flavor )...