I thought that 2013 was the year for berries but 2014 seems to have surpassed it. As a gardener and/or forager I feel it would be remiss not to
rave talk about them lots given their abundance.
We often make the deliciously summery elderflower cordial and a couple of years ago made elderberry syrup, not realising it’s health properties.
The berries above are growing on an elder tree at Callan Community Garden – the ones in our own garden have barely formed. It still surprises me how far behind we can be in the growing season, living on the top of our hill. Have you noticed elderberries in the trees yet?
Elder Tree Folklore
When researching this post I was surprised to learn that the Elder tree has a very spooky reputation. Folklore says that if you approach the tree after dusk you’ll place yourself at the mercy of witches (we’re in trouble then as there’s a tree at the entrance to our chicken run and one of the family passes it twice every day!) The Elder Tree is known as the witch tree, devil’s tree or Judas tree (it seems that Judas Iscariot hanged himself on one).
Folklore aside, I think it’s a very pretty tree and to me signifies that summer’s on it’s way or in the case of the berries, that autumn has well and truly arrived.
The following syrup is a handy one to have in the cupboard over the winter months as it’s traditionally used to prevent and treat colds and flu. It contains flavonoids that help to fight the flu virus as well as vitamin C that will boost the immune system. Studies have also shown that the berries are great for helping to fight sinus problems. Don’t stick them up your nose, make them into a tonic 😉
Elderberry Syrup Recipe
I turned to one of my favourite books for this syrup recipe – Food From Your Garden from The Reader’s Digest Association Ltd (published 1977).
6lb (3kg) ripe elderberries
Sugar (or honey)
1/2pt (300ml) water
6 cloves and a piece of root ginger or 2oz (50g) cinnamon and 1 level teaspoon allspice
Strip the elderberries from the stalks, wash them and discard any that are shrivelled.
Put the water and berries together in a large earthenware bowl and break up the fruits. (Do this by mashing the fruit in a bowl then heating over a pan of water until the juice runs, then mashing again.)
Strain the pulp through muslin or a jelly bag (coffee filters work too) and to each pint (600ml) of juice add 3/4lb (375g) sugar.
Put the sweetened mixture into a pan and simmer for 10 minutes. Whilst it’s simmering add either the cloves and ginger or the cinnamon and allspice. Pour into sterilised warmed bottles and seal.
Foragers Note: Never strip a branch bare of all it’s fruit. Take berries from different branches and trees, saving some for the birds.