The other day, after coming back from our long summer vacation, we finally made it back to our shared veggie garden. It was a perfect way to start the day and we were looking forward to check up on our veggies! On the way there, the nature is pretty lush, so walking towards the garden is always a pleasant experience. At a moment, we came across this tree which was full of little black berries, and I couldn’t resist but harvesting them. David took a photo of me while I was proudly holding the bunch of berries, and until then, I was pretty convinced that they were blackcurrants, or in french: cassis, which I totally love. I was really looking forward to come back home and make some blackcurrant jam, but then when we posted the photo on our facebook page, a lovely gal called Florence messaged us and told us “hi, those aren’t blackcurrants, they are actually elderberries“. I felt a little embarrassed at first, as I had to correct everything I posted, but hey, this is what Orla is about: just learning new things and growing together, right?
So it encouraged me to do some further research. What is this elderberry? Well, apparently it is simply the fruit of the beautiful elderflower, which itself is also used for syrup (check out Elly’s recipe here)!
From the elderberry plant, both the flowers and the berries have actually been known to be used for their medicinal properties, especially when it comes to boosting the immune system and preventing colds. The berries contain high levels of vitamin A, B, and C and stimulate the immune system amazingly, which makes them great to use medicinally when you’re feeling a little weak and want to protect yourself from a virus or any type of illness. They are often used in natural anti-flu syrups which are usually quite expensive in stores. But I found out that it’s totally easy to make your own, from self-harvested wild berries, almost free of costs and so much better!
Convinced? The next step is to figure out where to look for elderberries. They usually grow nearby forests, into creeks or marshy areas. Just go for a walk near your greenest area. The elderberry tree, or bush, had mounds of white elderberry flowers a couple of months ago which you’ve maybe seen, and you can identify it now when you see the little black berries hanging on their reddish stalks. So, get out there and bring a little basket with you, as they are quite easy to find all over Luxembourg at the moment! And then you can make your super healing, immunity-boosting syrup!
A note before we get to the recipe: The berries do look very tasty, but keep in mind it is safer to avoid eating them raw, because they can cause nausea or stomach cramping, as they contain a cyanide, a slightly toxic substance which is usually made inert with heat. Better wait till you cook them!
IMMUNITY BOOSTING ELDERBERRY SYRUP (source)
- 130g black elderberries
- 750ml water
- 2 Tablespoons fresh ginger root, cut in small chunks
- 1 teaspoon cinnamon powder
- 1/2 teaspoon cloves
- 300g raw honey (or agave syrup, but it won’t add any extra medicinal properties as the honey would)
- Pour water into medium saucepan and throw in the elderberries, ginger, cinnamon and cloves (do not add the honey yet!)
- Bring to a boil and then cover and reduce to a simmer for about 45 minutes to an hour until the liquid has reduced by almost half. At that point, you can remove it from the heat, and when it’s cool enough to handle, you can pour it through a strainer into a jar or bowl.
- Discard the elderberries (or compost them!) and let the liquid cool to lukewarm. When it is no longer hot, add 300g of honey and stir well.
- When honey is well mixed into the elderberry mixture, pour the syrup into a medium jar or glass bottle of some kind. If you pour it into a few small ones like I did, you can give the extras to your friends!
Yay, you just made homemade elderberry syrup! Store it in the fridge and take daily for its immune boosting properties, when you feel a little weak. Standard dose is ½ tsp to 1 tsp for kids and ½ Tbsp to 1 Tbsp for adults. If the flu does strike, take the normal dose every 2-3 hours instead of once a day until symptoms disappear.
Credits: Photos by David & Linda from Kinlake (taken with phone).