Elderberries – fight flu for free!

Sambucus nigra or the black elderberry is a plant native to Europe, Northern Africa and parts of Asia

The elder tree is amazing, it’s a small to medium sized tree that can grow up to 10 metres tall. It is found in hedgerows, down leafy lanes and in dappled wooded areas. It flowers from May onwards and the black/purple berries appear in August.

It is a brilliant plant as you can use the flowers and the berries for culinary and medicinal purposes. Make sure the berries are ripe before using (a dark purple).

The berries contain high amounts of vitamin A and C. The elderberry contains an effective antidote to different strains of flu called sambucol. Elderberries which have twice the natural antioxidant capacity of blueberries and more than 50% the overall antioxidant capability of cranberries. Antioxidants strengthen the immune system by helping neutralise the harmful effect of free radicals.

Elderberries have een used to lower cholesterol, improve vision, boost the immune system, improve heart health and for coughs, colds, flu, bacterial and viral infections and tonsillitis.


You can collect the berries by taking the whole head, pinch with your nail under the head and twist off, always remember as with all foraging, only take what you need, leave some ripe ones for the birds and wildlife too.

You will need about 4 lbs of elderberries, pick them on a dry sunny day, take them home, wash them, drain them and strip them from their stalks, a top tip is if you pluck them into a large bowl of water the ripe berries sink and the unripe float to the top so you can skim them off and put them on the compost heap.

Put into a pan and just cover with water, bring to the boil and simmer until they are just soft, this will take about half and hour, alternatively you could put them in the slow cooker for a couple of hours. Strain through a sieve to get rid of the seeds.

For every 600ml of liquid you will need to add 450gm sugar, the juice of 1 lemon and 10 cloves. Return to the heat, add a 2cm piece of fresh ginger, and simmer until the sugar has dissolved, boil hard for 10 minutes, let it cool and fish out the cloves and ginger.

You can either decant it into a bottle or freeze it in an ice-cube tray, you can use 2 ice cubes in hot water to make a hot drink, you can also have it straight off the spoon or use it like a cordial.


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