Elderberry season is coming to an end: they flower in June and are ready to harvest from July to October, depending where you are. Elders ( Sambucus Nigra) are pretty much everywhere: I found some trees on a local estate, and they are easily recognisable because of their cluster of tiny, dark berries. They can be confused with dogwood bushes (Cornus Sanguinea) whose berries are not edible, so make sure you identify the tree correctly! Dogwood berries are bigger, and its leaves are smoother; here are pictures of both plants for comparison.
I have been consuming elderberry syrup daily throughout the winter months for a couple of years, but it is the first time I attempt to make my own. There are many health benefits: mainly it strengthens the immune system. It is something to take as a preventive measure, rather than to remedy a cold.
I collected about 500g of berries and thought it would give me a decent amount of syrup, but I actually ended up with quite little, so don’t hesitate to get loads! The syrup can easily be frozen into cubes, so you can use it throughout the winter. Before starting, make sure to clean the berries thoroughly and remove every bit of branch, twig and leaf, as they can be toxic. The raw berries themselves are not edible and can give stomach ache, so do not consume before cooking. A word of caution: I also found loads of tiny little white worms while cleaning the berries, so it’s a good idea to let them sit in water for a while and make sure there are no insects!
My elderberry syrup recipe:
Put the berries in a pan and cover with water ( about double the volume of berries). I added a piece of fresh ginger and a couple of pieces of cinammon bark. This is optional, but it gives the syrup a better taste.
Leave to simmer on low fire for about 40 mins to an hour. Once the syrup has reduced, put through a sieve. Leave to cool down and add a big spoonful of good quality local honey (or more, to taste). To be very honest, my syrup doesn’t taste as good as ready-made ones, as there is obviously much less sugar, but it tastes fresh and a bit tart.
Next step is to make my own elderflower cordial in the spring!