Saturday, June 23, 2012

Locate elderberry bushes now for pie later!

If you'd like to pick elderberries this year and haven't found a good patch yet, now is the time to find them.  They are very easy to spot by their shape, height, and flowers.  I have my husband drive me to likely locations while we both search, and I jot down notes as to where they can be found later.  Once the berries are ripe, they are almost impossible to see from any distance.  In fact, I've walked right past loaded shrubs without seeing the berries, even while looking intently for them.  Increase your chances of success by getting out there now and do some reconnaissance.

Although it is getting a little late here in New England to spot elderberries from a distance by the flowers, you can still find them.  These pictures were taken a few weeks ago and not published due to a big computer crash, so look for bushes now that have fewer white flowers and lots of fallen petals and teensy developing berries.  Right now, most of the bushes I've seen have about half white flowers and half developing berries.

Close-up of a new elderflower

Although they commonly grow near water, they are also to be found in sunny areas on the brushy edges of fields and along the edges of woods.

Once you know what they look like, they appear everywhere.  Many grow alongside highways and busy roads.  Reject these, as the berries will be polluted by exhaust fumes from passing vehicles.

Along the edge of a wooded area

I looked in areas where I could go back and pick without getting into too much trouble....mostly around commercial and public buildings where there are unkempt areas at the back of the parking lot.  There are some nice ones next to the post office in one town, to remain unnamed (wink-wink!)  I can go pick the berries after hours and on weekends, when the building is empty and no one will notice.  I don't go where there are no trespassing signs, however.

Notice the distinct leaves and flowers.

A distance view of elderberries next to a pond.  These were cut to the ground last year, and I hope the farmer neglects this task until after I can get to the berries this year.  They recover quickly enough to put out berries within one season.

Elderberries should not be eaten raw, as they are poisonous unless cooked, dried, or fermented.  This is to our advantage, as the birds leave them alone.  More for us!  They have enormous food and medicinal value, containing powerful antioxidants and immune-stimulating effects.  And, properly prepared, they are rather delicious, have a delightful texture, and have a gorgeous color.  I love them in pie, in sauce for chevre with or without other fruits, and made into wine.  The flowers make a wonderful tincture that can help with immunity during cold and flu season, or can be made into wine or mead.

More on what to do with them when it is time to pick them.  For now, locate some bushes and you won't regret it, I assure you!  They grow in many areas around the globe, so do a quick google search to see if they grow in your part of the world.  I bet they do!


  1. I see these all over the place here!!!! I just thought they were weeds too! Yea!!!! I'm going to have to try them. Maybe make some jelly.

  2. They are only weeds if you don't want them! Be sure to save some for pie, too. It is delicious!