A couple of years ago, the only context I had on the Elder was things like Elderflower cordial - a nice, sweet, refreshing drink.
Since then, my understanding and experience has grown and I can appreciate the tremendous benefits that the Elder bestows on the world. So I was really pleased to discover that there were several Elder bushes just 500 yards from my home.
Although we are at the end of the season for the berries, on Saturday I had half an hour to spare, so took the dog for a walk down to the 'green' and went hunting for ripe Elderberries.
As mentioned above, it's a little late in the season, so good berries were a harder to find, but if you look for them, they are waiting to be discovered! 30 minutes later, I had collected what I thought was enough and headed back home (actually, I was also collecting Haws, but that's for something else).
I decided to make an Elderberry Syrup to a recipe in the book 'Hedgerow Medicine - Harvest and make your own herbal remedies'. First I got the berries off the stalks using a fork - this was much easier to do than I anticipated! The berries were then washed and placed in a pan with half of their volume of water.
This was then simmered for 20 minutes. As soon as you start this part, I guarantee two things will happen - 1) you'll love the wonderful deep purple colour you get in the pan and 2) you'll be salivating at the smell!
The pan is then removed from the heat and left to cool (once cool, I actually covered it and left it until the next day). The contents are then strained - initially I used a sieve and pressed as hard as possible to get all the juice out, but this was not totally effective, so my wife supplied a (clean) pop sock/stocking and that worked a treat! Ideally you would use a fruit press or a jelly bag for this task, and beware - it can be very messy!
I then measured the liquid and for every 500ml, you add 250g of muscovado sugar (I actually ended up with on 100ml of liquid, so used 50g of sugar), a cinnamon stick, some cloves and a slice of lemon. All this is put back into the pan and simmered for another 20 minutes.
Once again, the smell is just gorgeous! The final liquid was put through a sieve and poured into a sterilised bottle.
The Elderberry syrup is reputed to be excellent in helping colds, coughs and flu - perfect timing as the weather is now starting to get colder and those bugs are all around!
The dose is one teaspoon neat every few hours for colds and flu, or it can be used as a cordial and mixed with hot water.
Next year, I'll start earlier and make up a decent quantity!