At this time of the year trees and bushes are heavy with berries of all colours. Everybody knows some of the most popular ones like blackberries but there are a lot of other edible berries just waiting to be picked in the English countryside. Take care when you are foraging for wild berries: there are poisonous berries that may seem quite similar to edible ones to the novice.
Elderberries are the fruits of sanbucus nigra which is found throughout Europe. The flower of the plant are also edible and are used to make syrups, drinks, cakes or in marmalades. Unfortunately, this spring when the flowers where blossoming we where away and we could not try out any Elderflower recipes, but thanks to our wet August there is now a huge amount of Elderberries everywhere so we picked a bucketful. Elderberries are abundant and particularly easy to recognise, so there is minimal risk of poisoning yourself, but be careful, they are mildly poisonous when row and so they must always be cooked.
Elderberries have been used in traditional medicine for centuries and are believed to have many beneficial proprieties. I don’t know how much of this is superstition and how much is fact, perhaps there is a chemist among our readers that can give us more information. They make a good syrup and can be used in jams but we decided to make a thick strong juice to be added to apple juice or milk. The inspiration of this recipe comes from the River Cottage Hedgerow Handbook.
1 kg Elderberries
1 l water
1 cup caster sugar
Wash the berries carefully then place them in a big pot with the water. Cook for 15 minutes on medium heat. Strain through a sieve, add the sugar and cook for another 10 – 15 minutes. Then bottle in sterilized glass bottles or jars. Add to apple juice or milk for a immune boosting drink.