By John Moody
Elderberry is an amazing thing. The University of Wisconsin calls it a true super fruit. Ancient people had slightly different ideas about the berries than we do – one of their earliest uses was as hair dye! In the middle ages, the berries were an important defense against vampires – you could leave them on your windowsills and when the OCCD (obsessive compulsive counting disorder) riddled vampire tried to enter your abode, they would be stuck counting the uncountable little berries until sunrise, and would scamper home sans having enjoyed a meal at your family’s expense.
Modern people love the elderberries as well, and for good reason. Studies show all sorts of benefits to those almost infinite little berries. Benefits like reducing the duration and severity of colds and flus, boosting the immune system, and more.
“Although elderberry’s flu-fighting properties have long been observed, the group performed a comprehensive examination of the mechanism by which phytochemicals from elderberries combat influenza infections.”
“What our study has shown is that the common elderberry has a potent direct antiviral effect against the flu virus,” said Dr Golnoosh Torabian in this Science Daily article. “It inhibits the early stages of an infection by blocking key viral proteins responsible for both the viral attachment and entry into the host cells.”
While ancient folks mainly used the berries for hair dyes and holy beverages like wines and meads, the use of the berries as medicine came into vogue in the 800s or so and continued for over a thousand years. And now, after a brief hiatus, elderberry is making a big comeback.
If you are looking for more ways to get elderberry into your world, here is a super easy fridge/freezer jam that takes just a few minutes to make. Start with some high quality elderberry syrup such as from Abby’s Elderberry, www.abbyselderberry.com, or homemade.
You can also make the syrup without cloves, ginger, or cinnamon if you wish. Measure out one cup of the syrup and place in the refrigerator to chill. Next, dissolve 1½ teaspoons of gelatin (we use the Great Lakes brand) into two tablespoons of the cold elderberry syrup. With the remaining cold syrup, place over low heat and gently warm while whisking in the 2 tablespoons of elderberry and gelatin. Heat the liquid to 110°F (34°C). Put into a jelly jar and place in fridge. The jelly should set in about 4 hours.
If you want to do gummies instead, increase the gelatin to about 3 tablespoons. You can also add more gelatin and add in some juice for additional flavor, like tart cherry or lemon juice.
Another way to make use of it this holiday season and get even more elderberry into your world is to add it to various marinades or meat preparation. For instance, elderberry jam glazed ham, anyone?
You may think its a bit crazy, but historically, recipes for elderberry included everything from skin balm to soup!
How do you like to get your elderberry?
John Moody is a well known homesteader, farmer, and speaker. His books and resources on homesteading and farming have helped many thousands. You can snag a copy of his newest books, The Elderberry Book and Winning the War Against Weeds at johnwmoody.com