How to Grow and Use Elderberry Plants


| 7/20/2016 10:02:00 AM


Tags: elderberry, growing, pruning, using, East Tennessee, Allan Douglas,

Of Mice and Mountain Menelderberries_black

Overview

The elderberry is a large shrub or small tree (often 8-30 feet tall depending on variety) that produces small berries commonly used for jam, jelly, pies and wine. The fruit of the elderberry is a berry: 1/8- to 1/4-inch in diameter and about 50% of the berry is seed. It is native to the United States and is referred to as a ditch weed in some areas because it grows wild. Some residents curse the elderberry because birds eat the berries then leave large red or purple glops of bird poo all over their car and outdoor furniture.

Elderberry has a long history of culinary and medicinal uses. According to the Journal of Archaeological Science, Volume 30, Issue 6, June 2003 issue, excavations of a late Holocene village uncovered tens of thousands of red elderberry seeds. This lead researchers to believe that red elderberry was a diet staple of the native peoples living there.

Most of the elderberry plant is poisonous to humans, many pets, and cyanide sensitive livestock, so you must know which parts to avoid and how to prepare the berries. While leaves and stems are considered poisonous, herbalists have for centuries used dried elderberry leaves in an herbal tea for treating respiratory ailments like bronchitis and asthma. Perhaps drying the leaves then brewing them (along with other components) into tea neutralizes the cyanide producing component. Do not eat or press green leaves into your juice.

Elderberry grows well in low-lying areas, in the back of a garden, and makes a good hedge. Elderberry enjoys well composted material and good drainage. Plan on watering your elderberry plant weekly for its first summer, and pinch off flower heads during its first year to encourage root growth. Then stand back and watch it grow! If your elderberry bush becomes too big for your space, control its size through pruning. Keep the area around it mowed to prevent spreading by root suckers.

Varieties of Elderberry

There are several basic types of elderberry: black, red, blue, American, European, Mexican, and many ornamental varieties. A full discussion of all varieties would be lengthy, so I'll focus on the most popular.




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