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Monday, November 26, 2012

Elderberry, the Herb of the Year for 2013

Elderberry blossoms have many uses.

Ozarks Gardening
Copyright© Jim Long, 2012

Every year since 1994 the International Herb Association has designated a specific herb as the official Herb of the Year. Both the IHA and the Herb Society of America spend an entire year creating articles, books and educational materials around that specific herb, publishing the material on-line and in books for schools and businesses to use.
Elderberry clusters are often 14-18 inches across with hundreds of berries.
The elderberry is an excellent choice for next year’s focus. This native plant grows across Missouri, Arkansas and many surrounding states. Additionally, related varieties grow in Europe, North Africa and Asia. The berries are popular for their unusual taste in jellies, jams, syrups and pies.

Elderberries have many medicinal uses, both in folk remedies and in modern medicine. The berries are good antioxidants, meaning they help lower cholesterol, as well as boosting the immune system, fighting coughs, colds and flu and fighting off bacterial and viral infections. Elderberry syrup was always a reliable for coughs in olden times.

In addition, elderberry flowers are used in making wines, syrups and the old-time Ozarks favorite - elderberry flower fritters (much like a funnel cake, but better). Elderberry bark salve is an old-time folk remedy for cuts and bruises.
Birds and many animals also like the berries.
Elderberry extract can be bought on-line or in most whole foods and health stores. You’ll find it listed as, “Black Elderberry” or “Sambucol.” (Sambucus is the Latin name for elderberry). While buying elderberry juice, tincture or “extract” might sound more official, you can just as easily grow your own berries and make your own extract, juices or syrups.

Elderberries, in their natural setting, grow in ditches along country roadsides. The plant will grow in full sun or part shade and likes somewhat moist conditions but will also thrive in a regular garden setting. It’s also a good edible-landscape plant for growing at the back of the garden. The plants generally bear fruit the second or third year after planting, and when they start fruiting, will produce bushels from just 5 or 6 plants (that’s bushels of the clusters, you won’t have that much if you were to pluck off the individual berries).

If you’d like to grow your own elderberries, I recommend Pense Nursery, a family operation that offers a wide variety of berry plants. The plants are already acclimated to our Ozarks conditions. They’re located in Mountainburg, AR and you can reach them by phone: 479-369-2494 (call and leave a message, they’re good to call back). You can see what they offer on-line but you’ll have to call to place your order: www.pensenursery.net.
Elderberries growing on the Taberville Prairie, near Taberville, MO.

1 comment:

Erin said...

Great article, Jim. We are so excited that Elderberry is the Herb of the year for 2013.