If you didn’t harvest ALL of your elderflowers in Spring, you may be lucky enough to have ripening elderberries on your Elder plants. Or even luckier you’ll find them growing in the wild near you. That’s if the birds don’t get them first. Most of my plants have been demolished by the birds, and the tricky part is that if the berries are not fully ripe they’re toxic, so it really does pay to wait until they’re completely ripe before gathering.
I’m already brewing my fully ripe elderberries in my daily brews, and any extra will be dried for elderberry syrups to drink throughout Autumn and Winter.
Elderberry has anti viral & immune-stimulating properties, so the perfect ingredient for cold season brews. It’s commonly used to treat upper respiratory infections, including the cold & flu. Elderberries are powerful diaphoretics, inducing sweating and therefore can be helpful in reducing fevers.
The elder was long regarded as sacred, protected by the Elder Mother who lived in its trunk. Many country folk would not cut or burn the wood for fear of upsetting her.
However the elder was thought of as a protective tree – believed to keep evil spirits from entering the house if grown outside the door.
Elders were said to protect people from lightening when they sheltered under them from a storm.
Legend has it that Christ’s cross was made from elder wood.
If you want to see fairies, all you need to do is stand under an elder tree on Midsummer’s Eve...apparently...
Caution. All parts of the plant are toxic except for the ripe flower heads and the fully ripened purple/black berries. Do not eat the leaves, stalks or stems.