SOLVED: Wild elderberries? Can I eat them?

Gazelle, CA

These grow on my property -- far northern California -- berries are ripe now. Here is a big cluster of berries. What are they? Are they edible? The elderberries I knew back east were much darker, but otherwise very similar. When you rub the bloom off of these berries, they are dark underneath.

Thumbnail by Blackwing
Gazelle, CA

Here is a photo of another berry cluster, not as full as the first:

Thumbnail by Blackwing
Gazelle, CA

Here is the leaf.

Thumbnail by Blackwing
Gazelle, CA

There are many stems. Here is a closeup of the bark.

Thumbnail by Blackwing
Gazelle, CA

Here is the whole bush. It is about 10 feet tall.

Thumbnail by Blackwing
mid central, FL(Zone 9a)

not to discourage you from finding an id on DG, but if you are really wanting to eat berries, i would take this to your extension office to get a positive id. i wouldn't eat a berry unless i was absolutely sure. elderberry wine is good, but eating, i don't know, maybe google a couple of sites too. debi

Northern, AR(Zone 6b)

I make jelly from this fruit, and a great tasting wine from the blossoms. You can make wine from the fruit but I pefer the amber wine from the blossoms.

Churchill, Victoria, Australia(Zone 10a)

It looks to me very like the Blue Elderberry (Sambucus caerulea)

Benton, KY(Zone 7a)

Elderberries don't have much taste when eaten fresh...they are much better in jelly and wine...they seem to have a much richer flavor when processed somehow...the berries are tiny and somewhat seedy...great for birds, but humans tend to want theirs with more zest.

Manhattan Beach, CA(Zone 11)

Considering where you live it is most likely Sambucus canadensis. According to you should not eat the berries raw.
S. nigra has white pith inside the stems; does yours?

I think along the lines of Ulrich of your plant being S. canadensis-
If you break open the stems, mine is an off white just as was mentioned above.

Have never eaten any straight off the bush but the birds love them. When I was a kid the old timers used to make elderberry wine. I was too young to drink so have no idea what it tasted like. My neighbor came over and collected all of my elderberries to make jelly about a week or so ago. She gave me a jar last year and it was pretty darn good on regular toasted English Muffins. I'm looking forward to getting another jar this year.

Gazelle, CA

Comparing the two types of elderberry, it looks more like the sambucus caerulia to me than the sambucus canadensis. The berries are definitely blue, and the dark color only shows when you rub the bloom off. But, in any case -- it is great advice to verify with the extension agent. I keep forgetting that resource is available. So, assuming I can get a positive i.d. before the birds and bears get them, I'd welcome your recipes for jelly and wine. Also, the wine from the flowers sounds good. Thank you all for your help! I will post again after I know for sure what they are.

Judsonia, AR(Zone 7b)

We make elderberry jelly from wild elderberries, they grow along the ditches here where there's plenty of water. Elderberry juice is great for boosting the immune system during the cold season, I've not drank the juice but rather buy it at the health food store. Though one could put some sort of sweetener in it and drink it. There's not thing at all poisonious with the elderberries growing around here.


Churchill, Victoria, Australia(Zone 10a)

You ask for recipes for Elderflower Wine. We don't make Elderflower Wine, but Elderflower Champagbe is a great favourite of ours and one of the easiest wines to make. Here is the recipe:

7 heads elderflowers
1 gallon cold water
1.25 lb sugar
2 lemons
2 tablespoonfuls of white-wine vinegar
Method: Boil the water, pour over the sugar; when cold throw in the flowerheads, slice lemons and add the white wine vinegar. Let stand 24 hours. Strain and bottle. Cork well, and it is very fizzy, true to its name.
Mrs Hall, Austwick, Lancaster

The elderflowers should be picked with the sun on them and put straight in the sugar water as it uses the natural yeast on the flowers and this can be very variable.

The wine is ready to drink after three months or less. We nowadays use plastic lemonade bottles and you can tell if it is working well, as the pressure build up inside makes the bottles very taut and hard.

Beware though! The first time we made any, in glass bottles, the first bottle exploded in the cupboard and the first we opened was so effervescent that 3/4's of the bottle erupted onto the floor.

It is so popular in our family, that my son made a large batch of it and served it at his wedding reception.


Gazelle, CA

Kathy -- thanks for the tip about the juice. I am growing stevia to use as a natural sweetener, which would probably be very good in the elderberry juice.

Ken -- thanks for the elderflower wine recipe. I'll try to make some next spring. Sounds great!


Spokane, WA(Zone 5b)

Elderberry bushes grew wild where I grew up when I was a child, I always loved to pick them and eat them.

But now, as a grown-up (I thinks!) I would follow the advice of having them checked out first - just to be safe. There are so many poisoness (my spelling is terrible tonight) berries that you just need to be better safe than sorry.

Gazelle, CA

Definitely! I will check them out for sure.

Lexington, VA(Zone 6a)

Hannelore1, I agree with kennedyh, Sambucus caerulea. When travelling in Oregon several years ago in October, we saw this Sambucus and the blue fruit was spectacular. Michael Dirr says in his Manual of Woody Landscape Plants, fruit is good for jellies, jam and wine.

Gazelle, CA

Thanks, rcn48. I bettter get to them quick before someone else does (someone with four legs . . . or someone with feathers!)

Ocoee (W. Orlando), FL(Zone 9b)

If what you have truly is elderberry, they are wonderful. We ate them fresh as children, and my sisterinlaw and I would make Elderberry Fizz, almost identical to the Elderberry Champagne listed above. The wines, jams, and jellies are great too, or can be used in other berry pies. (or combined with rhubarb) My grandmother used to take the fresh blossoms, dip them in a light tempura batter, deep fry them, and sprinkle with powdered sugar, much like a funnel cake for breakfast. Elderberries can be rooted easily in water, if you get semi-hard wood cuttings.

Benton, KY(Zone 7a)

I've got to try the Champagne!

Post a Reply to this Thread

Please or sign up to post.