Blue Elderberry Wildcraft

elderberry treeClusters of wild blue elderberries.

“Delectable dishes made from elderberry are a leftover from old time housekeeping, when table luxuries were not so varied and abundant as they are now.”

New-York Tribune, September 11, 1921

Wild elderberry trees are abloom and loaded with ripe fruit around these parts of California right now, the heavy clusters of blue berries dangling from small trees everywhere in branch bending profusion.

The elderberry or elder tree has been valued in one form or another as an edible and for medicinal and health purposes of all sorts for thousands of years. The berries are nutritious and exceptionally high in antioxidants. Modern research suggests that elderberries may be an effective treatment for the flu and that they offer a wide array of other potential health benefits. It’s a plant with numerous utilitarian purposes, too, and there exists an extensive record in world literature and the annals of history regarding its many uses.

The Chumash Indians used the elderberry plant medicinally and as a source of wood for crafts and toolmaking. It was used to make fire sticks for creating fire by friction and to make a type of four foot self bow for hunting. Elder wood self bows were valued over sinew-backed bows for hunting sea otters on the Santa Barbara Channel Islands, because they held up better when drenched in sea water. The bows were effective in taking small game, but were sometimes used on larger animals such as deer. Elder wood was also used to make flutes and other musical instruments. (Timbrook)

blue elderberries

elderberries (3)Two pounds of freshly harvested blue elderberries destemmed, washed and ready for use.

Newspaper articles about elderberries from the early twentieth century mention them as if they’re some nearly forgotten wild curio that belong to a different era, something grandmas used to forage for to bake pies and make jelly with once upon a time in the olden days, when people made homemade stuff from scratch.

When collected in a container the ripe fruit has a subtle perfumy fragrance somewhat similar to a rose. Blue elderberry juice is a deep purply red and has an opaque, rich hue like the blackish inkiness of concord grape juice or red wine. Fresh elderberries taste bitter, but they’re edible and have good flavor. They can be used to prepare a number of different tasty foods from glazes for roasted meats like venison to ice cream and wine.

elderberry syrupElderberry pancake syrup.

elderberry jellyA smudge of elderberry jelly.

elderberry wine makingElderberry wine making seen here in two photos that accompanied a story published in the New-York Tribune in 1907.

elderberry wine 1907Pouring elderberry juice into the barrel.

This entry was posted in Santa Barbara and tagged , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to Blue Elderberry Wildcraft

  1. doctorkdog says:

    Funny, I’m publishing a blog post in a few minutes about my Elderberry adventures.

    Lanny Kaufer 805-646-6281 In every walk with Nature one receives far more than he seeks. John Muir

  2. craigrcarey says:

    Very, very cool, Jack. My wee ones will dig this and I’ve been pondering a project along these lines for my Cub Scouts. Thanks for this.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s