(Sambucus sp— Family Caprofoliaceae)
sureau (French), Holander (German), sambuco (Italian), saúco (Spanish), hyld (Danish), svarthyll (Norwegian), fläder (Swedish), mustaselja (Finnish), buzina chornaya (Russian), bez czarny (Polish), socul negru/soc (Romanian), buz (Bulgarian), sampoukou (Greek), balasan (Arabic), niwatoko no mi (Japanese)
Elderberries and elderflowers are products of elder trees found most everywhere in Europe, western Asia, and North America.
In the Old World, the common elder is S. nigra. American species include S. canadensis in the north, and S. mexicana in the southwest.
Members of the Honeysuckle family, they are seldom sold commercially, but are generally found growing wild in valley bottoms and gulleys and on open dry slopes.
The red elderberry can be found in open swampy areas, moist clearings, and shaded forests. Both can be found growing from sea level to moderate elevations.
The berries are small, shiny, and black, with a sweet, almost sickly taste, resulting from small amounts of a poisonous alkaloid. Cooking destroys this substance and transforms the taste, so it is best not to eat them raw.
Since they grow in wide clusters, the most convenient way to pick them is to remove the entire cluster and then use a fork to strip the twigs of their fruit.
Elderberries were not only used as food, but also fabric dye. The bright yellow flowers are often used to make an elderflower syrup or teas (tisanes). These teas have been used by Europeans and North American Indians since ancient times for medicinal purposes, especially as an antidote against colds.
The flowers are also used to flavour jams made with the berries. This is achieved by stirring quantities of the flowers into the jam until the flavour is judged to be strong enough. The flowers can be added to any recipe for flavouring purposes.
Elderberries often accompany such other fruits as apples or crab apples to make a jelly. Alone, elderberries require additional pectin to produce a good gel, so combining them with apples makes a good combination for several reasons.
The flower buds are sometimes pickled to make imitation capers.
Elderberries are excellent virus killers. Since colds and flus are viruses, it is a good idea to use elderberry supplements at these times.