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Elderberries

With winter fast approaching and its imminent colds and flu looming, make sure you’ve got a bottle of elderberry syrup to ward off any viruses.

History

Elderberries, flowers, bark and leaves have been used for centuries by our ancestors for a variety of ways to improve health some of which still have contemporary uses and some are maybe best left to folklore and witchcraft. Primarily, people today are using the elderberries to cure and help prevent colds, flu and boost the immune system but it has said to be valuable in fighting asthma, earache, burns and bruises to name a few. Unlike many other traditional medicines, modern scientists have confirmed, through research on flu, the berry’s beneficial uses to our health as this traditional herbal medicine contains a high amount of vitamin C, and also vitamins B and C.

What you can do with the Elder Tree

The elder-flowers can make cordial, fritters, wine, jam, champagne, tea and syrup.
The elder leaves can be added to soups, teas and is even said be beneficial for using as an insect repellent.
The elderberry is used for making wine, syrup, jam, jelly, dye, vodka and can be added to pies and crumbles.

Elderberry Recipe

I’ve been using the syrup, bought from my health food shop, for a number of years; however, this year was the first year I actually got round to making it – and it’s so simple! I’ve already used it on my daughter who caught a flu bug with a temperature and it worked wonders in speeding up her recovery.

What you need:

2lbs of ripe elderberries (I used more than this as I wanted to make a large quantity of syrup but you can use as much or as little as you want)

4 tablespoons of honey

Alternatives and additions can include juice of a lemon, cloves, ginger or sugar instead of honey. As this was the first time I made it, I wanted to keep it simple and sugar is not that beneficial to keeping you healthy!

Method:

Pick the berries on a sunny day. Make sure they are black and ripe as the red berries are poisonous.
• Gently pull the berries form the stems – this can take a while!
• Place the berries in a saucepan. The berries can stain easily so make sure you’re prepared! I add a little water in but just enough so the juice doesn’t burn.
• Bring to the boil and then simmer for about half an hour
• Mash up the berries and strain the bits.
• When the mixture has cooled but still warm, add the honey. This will ensure that it dissolves into the mixture.
• Bottle in sterilised jars and keep in the fridge (for about 2-3 months). I froze the rest in the freezer so I had a good supply for the future.

Afterthoughts

Elderberry syrup is safe for children over two years old; a teaspoon for younger children and a tablespoon for adults. Some people take it every day just to boost the immune system but you can use it more frequently when symptoms start to appear.

If you don’t make it yourself it is still worth investing in a bottle form your local health food shop.

For an extra treat, pour some on ice cream or pancakes or add it to a glass of brandy on a winter night.