My New Elderberry Plants

Elderberry syrup, Elderflower pancakes, Elderberry wine…

Do I sound like Forrest Gump – “fried shrimp, grilled shrimp, shrimp fricassee…”?

A couple of years ago Ray and I attended a class on making medicinal tinctures; one of them being an elderberry syrup/tonic.  Since then, I have been wanting to have my own Elderberry plants. Elderberries have become very popular lately as they are one of those “superfoods” that contain anti-oxidants, flavinoids, vitamins and minerals.  And they taste good, too! The berries can be purchased online, but they can be a bit pricey!

Elderberries

This is one of our local “native” elderberry plants. There are quite a few of these bushes along the road we travel to get to our favorite fishing lake. It is just loaded with elderberries!

After learning all about elderberries and where they grow, we discovered that native elderberries grow all around us!  In fact, last year snapped off a sprig of a native bush and tried to get it to root.  It didn’t.  I think I got the sprig at the wrong time of year.  🙁

Since we really wanted some of our own Elderberry bushes and my expertise at rooting woody stemmed plants is obviously lacking, I purchased some Elderberry plants online from Stark Bros. Nursery.  We bought two varieties – York and Nova – for better cross pollination. The plants themselves were cheaper to buy than a couple of pounds of dried elderberries purchased online, so this was one of those “no brainer” purchases!  I still want to try getting a sprig of the local native elderberries to root, but I need to do some more research on how to do this before I try again.

When the box arrived from Stark Bros., I was quite impressed with the size of my new plants.  The stalks were ¾ to an inch wide at the base!  Unfortunately, it was evident that the delivery service may have been just a bit rough with the package, as several new, tender shoots had broken off the main plant.

Hmmm…  I thought.  What if I stick these new shoots in soil?  Since I had some pots and potting mix on hand, I stuck the shoots into the moist soil and waited.

It didn’t take long!  Two of the three shoots rooted, so hallaleuja, I now have four plants!  I still want some of the wild ones, though.  After all, variety is the spice of life!

growing elderberries

These elderberry plants are just gorgeous when they bloom!

We planted the Elderberries where they get strong morning sun but dappled shade in the afternoon, and all four of them grew very well.  The two mother plants soon had beautiful white blossoms.  The blossoms had a faint sweet smell and attracted quite a few different pollinators.

growing elderberry plants

You can see that the beautiful white blossoms fall off as the berries start to develop.

The berries came soon after.  I had about six fairly large clumps of berries on each plant and by September the berries got heavy enough that the plant stems started drooping.  Because of that, and because of the amount of deer mice, rabbits, wood rats, moles, voles and bears (oh my) we have on our property, I figured I had better pick the berries as soon as they looked ripe, which meant that I picked only two or three berry clusters at a time.

When I saw that my berries were ripening, I figured I had better start doing some research to help decide what I will do with them. First I found this post about making Elderberry Tincture, which is what made me want the elderberry plants in the first place, and this post on how to make Elderberry Wine, and this recipe making Elderberry Syrup!

What did I do with the berries?

Since I didn’t have a whole lot of them, (they are very young plants) I decided to dehydrate most of them to use at a later date.  It took only half a day to dehydrate the first and second batches of elderberries.

elderberry dehydrating

Dehydrating my first batch of elderberries. It doesn’t take long!

It was funny how much the berries shrank!  Holy cow, I started out with about 2 cups of berries and ended up with less than one half cup!  But, I am sure when they are reconstituted, they will taste just as lovely.  Or perhaps I will just include them in a granola bar recipe I’ve been wanting to try.  The seeds inside the berries make them crunchy, which is great!

Maybe I will throw a handful of the dehydrated berries into yogurt! Hmmm… elderberry ice cream?

I am waiting for the day we will have enough elderberries to make a batch of elderberry wine, but of course, I will need a lot more elderberries to do that.  (Sigh)

My second harvest of elderberries. I know it doesn't look like much, but remember, we just got the plants this year!

My second harvest of elderberries. I know it doesn’t look like much, but remember, we just got the plants this year!

Today I harvested the last few bunches of elderberries and made a small coffee cake.  Of course, I cooked it in my Sun Oven!

elderberry coffeecake

Elderberry coffee cake, cooking in my Sun Oven! With some of our own bee’s honey slathered on top, it was absolutely delicious!

It was delicious.  The berries are reminiscent of blueberries, but the small seeds inside give just a little bit of crunch!  It’s wonderful!

elderberry drying

Haha – this is my little pint jar of dehydrated elderberries! Who knew they would shrink up so small!

So, that was the extent of our elderberry harvest this year.  Since I didn’t get much in terms of dehydrated berries, I will probably hoard them over the winter.  Now I understand why the dehydrated berries cost so much!

However, with my four plants and with hopes of being able to root some native elderberry plants, I am sure to have an adequate amount of elderberries in the future!

Do you grow elderberries? Do you cook with elderberries?  Do you have a favorite recipe for a medicinal tonic using elderberries?  I would love to hear from you, so please leave a comment below!

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15 thoughts on “My New Elderberry Plants

  1. Greetings. Vickie!
    I have heard of elderberries before but have never actually seen or tasted them. In all honesty, I thought they were a wild, poisonous berry, ha! I’m glad you mentioned what they taste like because we l-o-v-e blueberries but can’t get them to grow here due to our climate. I’d better do some research because this just may cure what ails us. I love propagation. You didn’t mention how you tried to start the woody piece you broke off so… Perhaps you could try breaking off a piece of new green stem (or whatever they look like) from a wild bush next spring and just stick it into the ground and cover it with a mason jar to make a mini terrarium. That works for a lot of woody plants. Have a great day my friend.

    • Hey there, Sharon! The berries are tasty, but only if you eat them when they are totally ripe! The ones that weren’t black as night had a bit of a bitterness to them. I am going to try getting some cuttings again this spring. I never thought using a mason jar as a terrarium – what a great idea! I don’t always recommend certain companies or brands, but I will tell you that the plants I got from Stark Bros. were impressive! I expected to get some puny little stems with a few roots, but seriously, these things were two feet tall with stems 3/4 inches (at least) wide! Once we got them in the ground, they took off like crazy! Have a wonderful week, Sharon!

    • Ooooo… I never thought of that! I have seen some of your posts of infused liquors, and they sound wonderful, so I just may try this. Thanks for the great idea!

  2. Hi Vickie,
    as always a great contribution.
    Elderberry is so versatile.
    The flowers we make elderberry champagne
    From the berry jam and syrup for colds and rhinitis.
    Best wishes
    Uwe & Angi

    P.S .: I think it’s nice that you want to rebuild my pumpkin.

    • Thank you, Uwe! Elderberry champagne sounds wonderful! Could you post a story on your blog about making it? But, if you pick the flowers, isn’t your berry harvest reduced? I love your wooden pumpkin decoration. Have a wonderful day!

  3. I have heard of Elderberries but am not really familiar with them. I will be interested to read of your progress with them.
    When trying to root woody shrubs, you need to be sure to get a piece that is green, not already woody. And it always helps to use rooting hormone, but obviously not totally necessary since you were successful with the broken pieces.
    🙂 gwingal

    • Yes – I did get some rooting hormone and hopefully that will work the next time I try rooting the wild elderberry. I’m thinking this next spring when the plant starts growing again would be the best time to get some green shoots. Wish me luck!

    • Yes – the berries are fairly small to begin with, and when they were completely dehydrated they were itty-bitty-tiny. However, when I pop just one in my mouth I get a burst of flavor! Thanks for having such a great party, Katy!

  4. Pingback: Thank Goodness It's Monday #196 - Nourishing Joy

  5. I am completely intrigued! I will be following along to see how things go! I am new to elderberries, and don’t know anything about them, except what you just taught me! Thanks for sharing at Country Fair Blog Party! Jan

  6. You are so fortunate to have those elderberry plants!!! I can’t imagine the fun I would have with them! 🙂 And a nicely stocked medicine cabinet too! Thank you for sharing with us on the Art of Home-Making Mondays!

  7. I have 100’s of native elderberry just steps from our farm here in the Sacramento Valley…and I’m lucky enough to have lots of them up near our Butte Meadows property. I gather about 20 gallons of berries each year and make syrup. I also make a delicious syrup from the flowers…fried elderberry flower fritters are delicious.

    • Hello, Lynda! I have heard that the fried elderberry flowers are delicious! I even saw a syrup made from them at the Sacramento IKEA store. But, if you take the flowers, how do you get fruit? I guess if you have enough elderberry bushes around this wouldn’t be a problem. Do you make your berry syrup for medicinal purposes, or do you use it for flavoring? I am just learning about a lot of the natural berries that grow in our region and plan to do some more foraging next year to find some of them. I can’t wait to find some salmon berries. I think I saw a bunch of them around Buck’s Lake this past year, but I wasn’t sure, so I didn’t pick. Do you harvest any berries other than the elderberries?

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