When we moved into our home here in Historic Northeast, we noticed there were some healthy elderberry bushes growing. A naturalized plant to the area, cultivating an elderberry is as simple as planting it and walking away.
Years ago, we went elderberry hunting with our friends the Friends. I get a giggle every time I say that, but their last name is Friend, and they are our friends, so…
We drove to Bonner Springs and battled monstrous mosquitoes, braved poison ivy, and sweltering August heat as we picked the berries and filled bags and buckets with them. Into the freezer they went, later through the juicer and back into bags as juice to be frozen again.
Right around that time, the Friends brought an elderflower jelly to the kickoff of the Urban Farms Tour here in Kansas City. One taste of that and I was ready to go back to either flower or berry-picking despite the enormous welts from the mosquitoes and the nasty rash of poison ivy I had suffered.
Fast forward five years and we are here, with our own super-healthy elderberry bushes. These suckers would take over the nearly full acre of land we have here, given the chance. And we have done nothing with them except get out of their way and let them grow and expand over the years.
Well, to be completely accurate, we have had to dig up some of the plants and relocate them. They are more than happy to spread everywhere!
By late spring, the creamy white flowers appear. They bloom for several weeks and then fall off. A month or two later, the dark, purple-black berries are ready and ripe for picking.
The Friends have made some lovely elderberry wine. We used the elderberry pickings we did years back to create elderberry mead. We called it Respect Your Elders and at 13% alcohol, you had better have plenty of respect for it!
Later we just called it our hooch – because boy howdy was it strong!
With all of these elderberries though, we just had to try something new, especially now that the bushes have grown so large.
I’ve also transplanted a fair number of them to the alley side of our back fence for even bigger future harvests. Meanwhile, a large patch of greenery will help deter the young punks from spraying graffiti and gang insignias on our wood fence (one of the cons to living in the city).
The elderflower syrup I am currently infusing is pretty simple. Here are the ingredients and steps…
- 15 large clusters (also known as umbles) of elderflowers -stems removed
- 1 lemon, sliced
- 35 ounces of sugar
- 5 cups of water
- 1/2 tsp citric acid (you can get this in the canning section or on Amazon)
Bring the water, sugar and citric acid to a boil, stirring to incorporate all sugar and not let it burn to the bottom of the pan.
Combine the de-stemmed elderflowers and lemon in a big pot. Pour the boiling sugar/water/citric acid mix over the flowers and lemon and stir until all of the flowers have submerged. Cover and let infuse for 3-4 days, then strain and keep the syrup refrigerated.
I’ve never done this before, but I’m really looking forward to seeing how it tastes and then using some of it to make elderflower jelly. In fact, I might make a second, and even a third batch, so that i have enough syrup to also make elderflower lemonade and elderflower soda.
Later, in August, I plan on collecting elderberries and making an elderberry syrup to fight off colds, along with elderberry jam and other interesting kitchen experimentation. Stay tuned for updates!