I am quite sick after some airline flights this weekend and dosing myself with (among other things) elderberry syrup. So I am writing on this topic.
Various species of elderberry are found around the globe in the Northern Hemisphere, and here in the Southwest we are lucky enough to have two species of our very own! Both Southwestern species Mexican elderberry (Sambucus mexicanus) and Western elderberry (Sambucus cereulus) grow well in Arizona – depending on your location.
Low, Middle, and High Desert can grow Sambucus mexicanus, a plant that is generally more tree-like. High Desert, Cool Highlands, and Cold Mountains can grow the more shrubby Sambucus cereulus. All of us in the SW should avoid planting the blue-berried Sambucus canadensis, a high-water user native to “Back East,” – also it does not thrive in our alkaline soils.
Planting & Care
Planting and care will be posted this week on my Gardening With Soule blog and link to it here. (when it goes up – Wednesday).
Harvest & Storage
You can harvest elder flowers and dry them for later use. Fresh flowers are high in sugar and make a nice wine or champagne.
The most common use of elder is the berries. Harvest a wad of berries by cutting the stem below the cluster. Berries can be dried for later use or pressed for juice. (If you have a juice press, great.) The juice will last about two weeks under refrigeration.
Most commonly the berries are made into a syrup. Heat them gently with water to soften the flesh. Strain out the seeds and pulp as you would to make jelly. Add honey or sugar, generally in the ratio of two parts juice to one part sweetener. You can store this in the refrigerator for two to three months, or further preserve by canning.
Want to learn more? Look for my free lectures at your local Pima County Library branch, or at Tucson Festival of Books! After each event I will be signing copies of my books, including Southwest Fruit and Vegetable Gardening (Cool Springs Press). Note this link will take you to Amazon. If you buy my book I get a few pennies.
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