Elderberry wine has been in my consciousness since I can remember. But I’ve never had a glass of it. I’ve never seen or tasted an elderberry and I can’t recall the source of my memory. My best guess is that it was in a book I read many years ago or perhaps in a movie or TV show. So, when I saw photos of elderberries, I knew I wanted to bring the topic here because I am sure many of you have either made the wine yourselves or sampled elderberries in deserts or cordials. I would love to know! My first question for those of you who have grown up with them, were you warned about the poisonous nature of the plant and the berries?

First, a small bit of folklore about the elderberry shrub/tree. Some lore insists that the elder tree can ward off evil and protect against witches. While other lore says that witches like to gather beneath the trees while they’re in full fruit. Maybe I’ll have one of my witches in the Flame Series have an elder tree in her backyard, lol!

FunFacts about Elderberries (Source) (Source) (Source)

  • The elderberry is part of the Sambucus family of which there are up to 30 different species.
  • The fruit of the elderberry is purple-to-black in color and is produced in clusters in the fall.
  • Elderberry fruit can be poisonous consumed raw. Cooking is advisable to remove the toxicity. Only Sambucus nigra is considered non-poisonous, yet some cooking is still advised.
  • The flowers of the elderberry can be used to produce an elderflower cordial.
  • Romanians have a soft drink made from elderflowers that steep with water, yeast and lemon for 2-3 days. It’s called ‘Socata’.
  • Birds and butterflies love elderberry shrubs and trees.
  • Elderberry shrubs and trees produce white, fragrant blossoms in the spring and summer.
  • Elderberries are used in jams, jellies, yogurts, pies and other baked goods.
  • Elderberries are also used to create wine, brandy and gin, especially in certain European countries.
  • Elderberries have been used as medicine for a long time to treat a variety of ailments: Rheumatism, the common cold and flu, for constipation, or as a diuretic and even for AIDS.
  • Elderberry shrubs and trees can live from 80 to 100 years.

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***This Week’s Giveaway is Closed!!!***

The winner is Dianne K.C.! Congratulations!

August Winners: Pansy P., Tamara K., Marie S.

To be in the running for this handcrafted paranormal romance bracelet, made by yours truly, please leave a comment at the bottom of this post. Also, feel free to post comments on every Caris Roane blog, Monday thru Thursday this week, to increase your chances of winning this week’s prize drawing. Only one win per month allowed!

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*** This week’s giveaway! *** To be entered into the giveaway drawing, please leave a comment about elderberries. Have you ever enjoyed cooked elderberries in baked goods or yogurt? Have you ever made elderberry wine? Have you ever eaten them raw and gotten sick? What stories did you grow up with about elderberries? Which photo did you like best? Feel free to share whatever comes to mind and share from the heart. 

And tell us where you’re from! I’m from Buckeye, Arizona, not far from Phoenix. (That’s the Desert Southwest, USA.)

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20 thoughts on “Elderberries

  1. I think I first heard of elderberries from a book too. I have never seen them for real or drunk the wine. I do think in the book it was called a “cordial” though I doubt it’s suitable for children.

  2. Never seen or tasted elderberries that recall. I haven’t seen any products such as wine or dessert type items either. They kind of look like grape clusters at times, they look to be a cross between a grape and blueberry. I wonder if they have a similar taste

  3. I have eaten elderberry jelly my entire life. My mother would always scout out hedgerows or check roadsides for random bushes. She would make a mental note in the spring when they were blooming and around the middle of August we would set out with our paper grocery bags ready to pick the clusters. I am no stranger to stopping by the side of the road with a paper bag looking to fill it with dark purple/black berry clusters! Since I have a stockpile of jelly I do not need to seek them out this summer. While removing the berries from the clusters you just can’t help yourself from sneaking a berry or two to taste. BIG MISTAKE!! Those berries are NOT SWEET at all. In fact, they take quite a bit of sugar when making jelly. The jelly tastes something like blackberries and blueberries all rolled into one and it is very dark purple. I have occasionally seen it in the grocery store. I believe it was Smucker’s brand. If you ever have the opportunity to taste it you will not be sorry. Every time I put it on my toast I am instantly back in my childhood.

    • Nancy,
      Thank you for sharing your experiences! This was exactly what I was hoping for! I’ll have to hunt down a jam, maybe online, to give it a try. I love both blueberries and blackberries so if it tastes like a combination of these, I’d be in heaven. (Me, mouth watering…)

      Caris from Buckeye, Arizona

  4. I’ve never seen elderberries either. In fact, this is the first time I’ve heard of them. But I love berries and would love to try elderberries too.

  5. I have seen the berries growing by my house. I never tried eating one though. I have also seen the jelly and jam in stores, even at the gas station. I have tried the jelly and it is pretty good, especially on toast and ice cream. Thanks for the information.

  6. I grew up with elderberries. My native relatives would bring it back and we would get some of it. Wish I would have gotten to experience that, but I wasn’t allowed to go. They used it for many things. Even some medicinal remedies. Many parts of the plant/hedge can be used.

  7. I like the first two pictures. I remember years ago my Mom had gotten Elderberry jelly and I did have some as a child-it was good. Haven’t had it for so many years now. I’ve never seen an elderberry bush/tree but the flowers are pretty. I’m from S.V., Arizona.

  8. What an intriguing plant! I’ve never seen it before – I don’t think they would like the desert. I especially liked the picture of the flowers – bet a bee would go crazy over that bunch!

  9. I’ve yet to see any wild elderberry bushes growing here in NC.

    In MA where I grew up, they were all over the place.

    We would pick them and make elderberry jelly which was incredibly delicious. A lot of work though.

    I have bought many a jar of elderberry jelly in stores all over the southeast, but they pale in comparison.

    The ones I’ve tried are mostly sugar and a watered down elderberry flavor.

    I sure miss the real thing. *sighs*

    • Sandra,
      So much of the ‘real thing’ does require a lot of work. My grandmother made a to-die-for plum-raspberry jam every year that was out of this world. I miss her jam but I’ve never attempted to make it myself…again, it’s a lot of work. Those little jars of all that goodness were a real treasure.

      Caris from Buckeye, Arizona

  10. I have heard of elderberries but have never tried them. I don’t know anyone up north here that has. I liked the picture of the flowers of the elderberries the best.

  11. I’ve heard of Elderberries, but don’t recall trying them. I live in upstate New York and don’t believe I’ve ever seen any Elderberries. I would like to try something that is made with Elderberries.

  12. I had it in my head that most everyone would have tried elderberry wine or jam and that I was the unusual one. So, it surprised me that most of you had more of my experience. Out of profound curiosity, I’m going to have to at least hunt down a jar of jam and I’ll definitely keep my eye open for some elderberry wine…I’ll report back what I discover…

    Caris from Buckeye, Arizona

  13. I’ve heard of elderberries, but I have never tried anything with them. I didn’t know they were toxic if they aren’t cooked. Would like to try an elderberry wine if I ever see it somewhere.

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