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The Elderberry is classified as a shrub, it can reach tree-like heights of over seven meters. The gently serrated leaves usually grow in groups of five and are arranged symmetrically along the twigs. The creamy white, five-petaled blossoms are clustered into upright flat-topped bunches known as umbels. These flowers are at their peak for foraging after the green buds have opened but before any brown discoloration develops. Their heavy sweet scent has aromas of fresh hay and mild anise notes. Flavors on the palate are similar, but with a fruitier and slightly medicinal finish.
Elderflowers bloom in early summer.
Elderflowers come from the Blue Elderberry also known as Mexican Elderberry. Botanically named Sambucus nigra cerulea, this perennial shrub in the honeysuckle family is identifiable by its blooms’ intoxicatingly sweet floral smell. Both the flowers and ripe bluish-purple berries are edible. The leaves, bark and unripe green berries are toxic. It should also be noted that the red berries of other species are poisonous and should never be confused. There are more than twenty cultivars of the species. Elderberry twigs have unique removable cork-like centers that are famous among children for making hollowed out toys such as pop-guns and panpipes.
Elderflowers contain vitamin C, flavenoids, rutin, and tannins important for immune health as well as antioxidant and anti-inflammatory purposes.
Elderflowers are best used in sweet applications. They are commonly dipped in batter and fried for Elderflower fritters, but also make a delicious addition to muffins and pancakes. The liqueur, wine and syrup made from Elderflower is very popular in specialty cocktails. The sweet floral note of Elderflower is commonly balanced by the tartness of lemon or gooseberry
The Elderberry tree was a holy symbol of health in the Middle Ages, and its flowers were used in folk medicine. Its name appears in ancient lore from countries such as Germany, Denmark, Romania, Russia and Scotland. The Cahuillas Indians used Elderflowers, berries and twigs for food, medicine and ceremony.
Elderberry is a native species to western portions of North America and Central America. Historical writings also cite it across parts of Europe, Asia and North Africa. Today its domestic distribution stretches from west Texas across Montana and into the western United Stated south into Mexico. Elderberry prefers moist soils along sloping canyons and stream banks as ideal habitat.
Recipes that include Elderflowers. One is easiest, three is harder.