Thursday, December 16, 2010
Elderberry Clouds . . .
Elderberry (Sambucus nigra) flowers . . . beautifully scented floating clouds above dark green leaves, followed by small dark berries that make delicious wine and jam. I brought a bottle of Elderberry cordial at the Raglan market last Sunday, mixed with soda water it makes the most delicious, refreshing drink.
Herbalists have for generations been aware of the benefits of using elderberry syrup for cough and congestion remedies, herbal teas for relieving sore throats, also used as a mild laxative or diuretic. Evidence of the cultivation of Elderberry has been found at stone-age village sites in Switzerland and Italy. It was also imbued with myth and magic, spirits were said to live in the tree, people refused to cut it down or burn the wood. The leaves were once used in green elder ointment for bruises, sprains, and wounds.
There is a wealth of folklore attached to this plant, often described as a `complete medical chest` because of its countless therapeutic qualities, one being the use of elderberry water for whitening the skin and removing freckles !
Elderberry is considered a weed here in NZ as are so many other exotic plants introduced over the last 100 yrs. Being a mostly temperate climate and fertile soils, plants get out of control quickly, moving into our native bush and smothering everything.
Raw elderberries should not be eaten as the seeds contain an un-pleasant tasting, poisonous alkaloid, cooked they are used in jams, sauces, jellies and syrups. Fresh elderberry flower clusters make delicious fritters !
The old wood is very hard, it was used for making nails for the soles of shoes, the young wood is brittle and soft, often hollowed out to make pipes and musical instruments.
A tree of many uses, elderberry may be considered a pest, but it is one of my favorite plants.