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Wild Edibles this Week: Elderberry

In the fall, I like to make a batch of elderberry syrup. As many know, it is high in vitamin C and great for immune support. This week, I was talking with herbalist Rachel Ross and she mentioned elderberry was in bloom now. I went out to my yard and driving around town and realized elderberry is everywhere! The elder flowers bloom in June and the white flowers really pop against the lush dark green foliage. They are easy to spot along the road side, near rivers and streams and most wild areas. They are tough enough to fight off the overgrowth of bittersweet holding their own in the dense spring jungles of New England. Who knew they were so common?

The clusters of tiny white flowers with five pedals make them easy to identify even from a distance.

While many know of the common uses of the berries, the flowers also make a lovely tea and have become a powerful medicinal in their own right. With strong anti-viral, anti-bacterial and anti-inflammatory properties, this potent flower is wonderful to fight off sinus congestion, asthma, coughs and colds. So while many may be struggling with congestion this spring, nature has put the remedy right out there for the taking.

It is easy to harvest the flowers as just 2-3 clusters make a nice cup of tea. So pick a few for now, keep some in the frig in a plastic bag for later. They can also be dried for use anytime. Dry the flowers and then just shake to release the tiny florettes into a container for use later.

When making the tea, be sure to separate the tiny florettes from as much stem as possible. The stems are bitter at best and poisonous at worst. Elderberries and elderflowers are edible, but the leaves and stems are high in arsenic and should never be consumed. So avoid all but the tiniest flower stems attaching each small flowerette, steep 5 minutes in boiling water strain and enjoy a lovely sweet spring tea that will clear that spring congestion.