Early this past spring, I adopted a Black Elderberry bush. It was small, only a couple of stems, and I was afraid it was not going to survive the shock of being transplanted. Much to my delight, it did. Not only did it survive, it flowered and fruited. In watching how it flowered, I suddenly noticed how many Black Elderberries grow wild, all over Southern New Jersey. The leaves resemble walnut leaves, set up as what a botanist would call pinnatisect, one leaf that looks like a lot of smaller leaves branching off of a center stem. In about mid-May, the tips of the bush blossom with small white flowers. Once the flowers fade, they leave behind small green berries. Eventually these berries turn dark, dark blackish-purple.
For centuries, people have used the elderberry as a healing plant. The dark color comes from a compound that is a powerful antioxidant and it is very high in Vitamin C. Many people use it as a cold and/or flu remedy. You can purchase it in retail stores for $12 or $13 a four ounce bottle. Or you can plant an elderberry bush, harvest the berries, and make your own. If you know what you are doing, you can forage for elderberries in your area.
If you are unsure whether or not a wild plant is edible, you should always err on the side of caution and NOT EAT IT!
To make Black Elderberry Syrup:
Wash, stem, and weigh the berries, and then put them in a large non-reactive pot. Mash the berries and then add one quart of water for each pound of berries. Bring this to a boil and then turn down to a simmer. Let this simmer for 45 minutes. Strain through a jelly bag. When it has cooled off enough for you to handle it, add one cup of honey (we use raw local honey) for each quart of juice. Mix until the honey is dissolved.
This must be stored in the refrigerator.