The permaculture growing area we planted in the Spring of 2011 surprisingly began to really mature this year. We didn't expect to have much in the way of fruits so early on and we also didn't expect to be stripped of most of it by early summer due to squirrels and chipmunk activity. Fruit protection will be another venture for next spring but there were a few things that the animals left for us: blackberries and elderberries. While blackberries are easy to come by, elderberries, or sambucus nigra, are a rare find. A plant with many uses, these berries are edible, their flowers bring beneficial insects and the berries have medicinal properties. Elderberries have relatively strong scientic evidence that they have activity against the flu and can reduce the duration of symptoms by 56%. The popular extract "Sambucol", made by Nature's Way, was specifically studied.
You can tell that the primary flavinoids are the anthocyanidins based on the deep fuscia color in the extract (don't wear white when preparing it!). These anthocyanadins are thought to have immunomodulating and anti-inflammatory effects. Laboratory studies show activity against H1N1 virus (Swine Flu) and inhibits replication of several strains of influenza A and B.
Be careful not to use unripe berries, leaves or stalks of the plant which contain cyanogenic glycosides which release cyanide when consumed.
Uses: Drizzled on top of vanilla ice cream, in a cocktail, mashed in some bananas for baby food, and as a medicine. We plan on having this ready as a syrup for upper respiratory infections for us and baby during the upcoming winter months...
RECIPE: ELDERBERRY SYRUP
I made this without honey since we have an infant under 1 year old...
8 ounces of elderberries
Directions: Carefully heat elderberries in a small sauce pan. Add a few teaspoons of water to prevent burning. Using the back of a spoon, mash the berries as they very gently simmer. When you've extracted all the juices, strain through a fine sieve. The liquid will be a gorgeous dark fuschia color.
Put liquid back into sauce pan and for every 1 Tbs of liquid you extracted use a little less than 1 Tablespoon of sugar into the pan. Gently simmer stirring frequently.
You can use this right away or use a canning method to preserve the syrup for future use. The end of the summer is right upon us and this is the time to squirrel away all that food you've grown to enjoy in the upcoming months...