As I pick, the prominent creases in my palms fill with the deep purple, almost black, juice of the elderberries. The plastic fork I use to comb the berries from the stems, jabs and pokes the delicate skin, bursting the deepest flavored berries. I decide to use my fingers to coerce the berries from their stems. An effort to save as much of the precious juice as possible for the medicinal concoction I’ll be making. I relish the intimate hand labor to collect sustenance for my body. Ray Bradbury said it best when he described the art of doing things by hand as something that imbues actions with spirit and enduring significance.
Several years ago I discovered an enviable passion for the medicinal properties of Elderberries. Elderberry’s antioxidant capacity is one of the highest of all wild food sources. A tablespoon a day of elderberry syrup is enough to stave off the most arduous cold and flu season. As with many things, homemade is not only better but cheaper. So 15 years ago along a shallow ditch next to a wild space, I planted ten elderberry whips, a florescent ribbon marking their place in the wilderness. All I could do was let time pass.
The head-high bushes started producing at 10 years. Most harvests now produce enough to share with friends, family and a variety of bird species. The birds have spread the seeds by a method I lightheartedly refer to as “poop and plant”. Our property now has scatterings of elderberry bushes that are exclusively food for wildlife. The serendipitous way “passing it forward” occurred makes me wonder if nature had a plan for my relationship with the elderberry all along. The land has been waiting to welcome the elderberry. Evidenced by its proliferation into the hidden wild areas only a winged-one can reach.
With that thought, I would like to share my elderberry syrup recipe. I’m not really sure you can call it a recipe. It’s more of a creative adventure in food preservation. I hope during the process you feel the hand/heart connection … that your being is imbue with spirit, knowing the enduring significance this one action has on the health and well-being of all that surrounds you.
Ingredients: Elderberry juice (2-3 cups), 1 tsp Cinnamon, 3/4 tsp Ginger, Raw honey
Put clean elderberries into a pot with a good splash of water. Whatever you pick will be enough. Bring to a boil. Turn down to a simmer. Crush berries in the pot. Let them cook at a simmer, crushing and mixing, for 5-10 minutes. A potato masher works well. Once you feel you have squeezed every last drop of juice from the berries, drain the liquid. I use a mesh strainer. To the liquid add the spices. Adjust amounts to your taste. The measurements I gave are a starting point. Add the raw honey at last, after the juice has cooled. Stir well. SYRUP MUST BE STORED IN THE REFRIGERATOR.
I take a tablespoon a day beginning in September. It’s yummy drizzled over yogurt or mixed into oatmeal.