Elder Berries

Elder is one of our favorite wintertime herbs!  Found growing in moist areas along rivers, roads, and in forests, this immune boosting botanical is native to Europe, Northern Africa, and Western and Central Asia. Its flowers and berries have a long history of use in traditional European medicine. Native Americans have also used the flowers, berries, and bark of Elder trees for hundreds of years.

Elder berries may be easily incorporated into teas or tinctures, but here are some other fun ways to make medicine with them:

Elder Berry Syrup

Elder berry syrup is a wonderful remedy for wintertime and offers antioxidants, potassium, beta carotene, calcium, phosphorus, and vitamin C. For children under 2, add the syrup to hot water to kill any microbes in the honey. You can even drizzle the delicious syrup over pancakes, yogurt, or ice cream!

- 1 cup fresh or 1/2  cup dried organic Elder berries (harvest blue or black, avoid poisonous reds)
- 3 cups water
- 1 cup raw local honey
- 1 organic Cinnamon stick, 3 organic Cloves, and a pinch of dried organic Ginger root (optional)

Place berries, water, and spices in a saucepan. Bring to a boil, reduce heat, and simmer for 30 minutes. Smash the berries to release remaining juice and strain the mixture. Allow liquid to cool and stir in honey. Will last for 2-3 months stored in the fridge.

Or, watch our YouTube Video on making Elder berry syrup! The spice quantities in the video are a little different than in the recipe above, but that is because there are many ways to make the syrup. Feel free to adapt either of the recipes to create your own!

Elder Berry-Plum Sauce

This delightful recipe comes from our friends at Herb Companion. The spicy sauce can be served hot or cold. Use it as you would applesauce – it’s a delicious topping for poultry, winter squash, ice cream, or puddings. The recipe calls for fresh Elder berries, but you can substitute dried berries – just reduce the quantity by half.

- 1 pound Elder berries, rinsed and cleaned
- 1 pound Damson plums, rinsed and pitted
- 1/2 cup water
- 1 ounce honey
- 1 stick organic Cinnamon
- 2 organic Cloves
- 1/2 ounce butter, browned
- 1 tablespoon cornstarch (or Arrowroot powder)  mixed with 2 tablespoons water

Put fruits in a medium-size pan, along with water, honey, cinnamon and cloves. Bring gently to a boil, then reduce heat and cook until fruit is soft. Melt butter in a saucepan and gently brown at a low temperature. Put fruit through a food mill to remove most of the Elder berry seeds. (Some seeds will remain.) Return pureed fruit to pan, add butter and cornstarch mixture. Bring to a boil, reduce heat, then cook at a low temperature for 5 minutes. Remove from heat and serve or bottle and store in refrigerator. Makes 3 to 4 cups.

Recipe reprinted with permission from The Herb Companion magazine, a division of Ogden publications. Recipe written by Margie Gibson. Margie Gibson writes about food, culture, history and natural history. Previously, she worked at the Smithsonian National Zoological Park, where she wrote about wildlife.

Click here for the original article: Elderberries: Grow, Cook, Heal with Elder

Elder Berry Vinegar

In this recipe, MaryJane Butters shows how to turn ordinary vinegar into an indulgent treat! Try this gorgeous purple concoction paired with a mild oil and drizzled over some tender greens and edible flowers, like nasturtiums. The recipe calls for fresh Elder berries, but you can substitute dried berries – just reduce the quantity by half.

- 2-1/4 cups Elder berries
- 2 tablespoons honey
- 2 cups red wine vinegar

Use a fork to lightly mash the berries (omit this step if using dried berries). Place all the ingredients in a heavy-bottomed, nonreactive saucepot over low heat. Once the mixture has started to simmer, cook it for an additional 10 minutes, stirring occasionally to prevent the fruit from burning. Pour the mixture into a glass jar with a screw-on lid and store in a cool, dark place for three weeks. Using a fine mesh strainer lined with a coffee filter, separate out the berries. Use a wooden spoon to push on them and extract as much juice as possible. Pour into pretty bottles and garnish with a few whole berries, if you like.

Recipe reprinted with permission from The Salt Lake Tribune. Recipe written by MaryJane Butters. A wilderness ranger, carpenter, environmental activist, and modern-day organic farmer, MaryJane Butters is the author of three Random House books and publishes her own magazine, MaryJanesFarm. In addition to running her farm and the “Farmgirl Sisterhood”, she cultivates future organic farmers in her Pay Dirt Farm School and writes a syndicated newspaper column for United Media.

Click here for the original article: Add Vim to Vinegar with Fresh Herbs and Fruits

Links from Mountain Rose Herbs:

Dried Organic Elder Berries
Organic CInnamon Sticks
Organic Cloves
Organic Ginger root
Organic Arrowroot powder


~ irene

29 Responses to “Elder Berries”

  1. avatar ociana says:

    I would love to be able to grow my own elderberry plants. What is the best variety to grow for the above type recipes?

  2. [...] Elder Berries « The Mountain Rose Blog [...]

  3. [...] this article: Elder Berries Enrich your life and the lives of others by learning Aromatherapy, Reflexology or Color/Crystal [...]

  4. avatar Hannah says:

    I love Elder berry syrup! It works wonders upon colds and flus and with 7 children, I was thrilled to find the product @ MRH and simplicity in making it.

    My 1st batch of syrup tasted wonderful, and kept well in the fridge until about a month then it fermented! The jar it was stored in let out fizz that sounded like pop and the smell/taste was questionable. I was surprised because I understood that It would keep for several months.

    I recently discovered another recipe for the syrup along the same lines as the one listed in the post. However, there was an extra step of returning the honeyed/sugar mixture to the pot and reducing it (boil to simmer) with the extra step the syrup was thicker, tasted and kept better, however I felt as if I “lost” a lot of mixture in the reduction process.

    Does reducing the mixture change the health properties of elder berry syrup? Is there a way to prevent it from fermenting if I do not reduce the mixture?

    • avatar Irene says:

      Hi Hannah,

      Thank you so much for your comment. It is wonderful to hear that you are making Elder berry syrup for your family, it is such an incredible and tasty medicine! I have never heard of further reducing the syrup and honestly don’t whether or not it would diminish the health properties of Elder berries and honey. I am surprised to hear that your syrup fermented after only a month in the refrigerator since the honey should have helped preserve it. You could try increasing the amount of honey used or could add a shot of vodka or brandy to help preserve it (you may want to save that syrup for adults only). Another option is to create a large batch and can the syrup in mason jars. Then, you could open up a jar whenever in need of some Elder berry goodness!

      The good thing about many herbal remedies is that they can be adapted and changed. So, I would encourage you to play around with the recipes and see what works best for you.

      Thanks again!

      ~ irene

  5. avatar womanofsteele says:

    Can the elderberry syrup be frozen?

    • avatar Irene says:

      Hi WomanofSteele,

      Thank you for your question! I have never frozen the syrup before, but it is a great idea. If you try it out, let us know how it works!

      Thank you again,

      ~ irene

  6. avatar Hannah says:

    Thanks for the tips Irene! I like the idea of a shot of brandy in the syrup.

  7. avatar lavenderbit says:

    I made my first batch the elderberry syrup a few days ago. Tasty!!! I learn so much from this blog and I can’t wait to learn more.

  8. [...] started a blog which is really informative and beautiful all at once, and they have a great tutorial up on how to make elderberry syrup. I have copied their recipe for you, but make sure to go to [...]

  9. avatar Firefly says:

    I added a splash of rum to mine and still give it to my 2 kids. It is a small amount and when they are really sick allowing them to get some needed rest is worth it. I used to have wine and water every night for dinner growing up so I see nothing wrong with it at all. I have heard about making elderberry wine. Does anyone know if it still holds any medicinal properties after the fermentation process?

  10. avatar Dianne4 says:

    I made this following the recipe so I used 3 cups of water instead of the 2 cups that the video tutorial shows. Will this make it weaker and should I then up the dose?

    • avatar Irene says:

      Hi Dianne4,
      Thank you for your question! The amount of Elderberries used in the video is different, but the dosages given in the written recipe are accurate. However, Elderberry Syrup is great for your immune sysytem, so it wouldn’t hurt to take a little extra. :-) We based our recipe on recipes from Rosemary Gladstar and Learning Herbs (http://www.learningherbs.com/herbal_cold_remedies.html), but there are many variations of this recipe available.
      Thank you again, and happy medicine making!
      ~ irene

  11. avatar lindag says:

    I have powdered elderberries. Can this be used in recipes that call for elderberries or dried elderberries? If so, what would be the ratio?

    • avatar Irene says:

      Hi Lindag,

      Thank you for reading our blog, and for your question!

      I have never used powdered Elderberries to make these recipes, but I believe that they could be substituted. I would attempt the recipes with 1/3 – 1/2 as many Elderberries as the recipes call for, and then make adjustments accordingly.

      I hope that this helps, and thank you again!

      ~ irene

  12. […] I make my version of Elderberry Syrup every fall and sometimes have a bit left over as spring turns into summer to use for a delicious soda. It’s quite easy to make at any time of the year though! Here’s my recipe and another recipe here. […]

  13. […] I make my version of Elderberry Syrup every fall and sometimes have a bit left over as spring turns into summer to use for a delicious soda. It’s quite easy to make at any time of the year though! Here’s my recipe and another recipe here. […]

  14. avatar Rachel says:

    I was curious about thickening the first syrup recipe here. I found it to be a bit thin. Any suggestions? Thanks!

    • avatar Kori says:

      Hi Rachel~Thank you for your question and for checking in with us. You can cook the syrup down until it is more concentrated as one possibility, but you could also add more honey for a thicker consistency. I do hope this points you in the right direction. Thanks again and good luck! ~Kori

  15. avatar Pei Lu says:

    Seems wasteful to discard the cooked elderberries. Would you blend the berries to incorporate that into the syrup before adding honey? Is the cooked elderberries edible? Is there a reason that elder berries are discarded once it’s done cooking? I see a lot of similar recipe and don’t understand why we discard the elderberries once it is done cooking. Thank you!

    • avatar Kori says:

      Hi Pei Lu~Thank you for stopping by and sharing your concerns and questions. You are welcome to do whatever you might like with the elderberries after straining them from your syrup :) Yes, you could puree them (they can be a little chewy), or add them to a smoothy, or toss them into oatmeal, or ? I think that they are often discarded because so much of the flavor and properties have been extracted into the syrup, but I’m sure there’s still goodness in them. Good luck! ~Kori

  16. avatar Nyxie says:

    Hello! I want to be able to use this syrup for my entire family, however my son is less than a year and so honey is not safe for him. Is there anything I can substitute it with?

    Also, how many oz of syrup does this recipe make? I have a 1lb bag so I’m trying to figure out how much I can make with it. Thanks!

    • avatar Kori says:

      Hi Nyxie~Thank you for checking in with us and reading the blog! You could use an alternative sweetener, I imagine, and make a simple sugar syrup, but you would want to adjust the amount of water used to reconstitute the berries as it will likely be thinner. You may notice the part in the recipe that says “For children under 2, add the syrup to hot water to kill any microbes in the honey.” This would mean you are making a bit of a tea with the syrup instead of giving it to the child straight up. Each cup of liquid equals 8 ounces, so 3 cups of water would equal 24 ounces, but you can anticipate it cooking down a bit as it reduces. Perhaps you’ll end up with approximately 18-20 ounces of syrup. I do hope this answers your questions and we wish you the best. ~Kori

  17. avatar Erin says:

    As far as using the remaining berries goes, I would not recommend it. I once had a co – worker who got very sick after eating the pressed berries from a tincture. While the syrup berries have been cooked and are therefore less toxic, too many seeds can make you sick. Also, my understanding of the honey issue is that young systems cannot deal with botulism spores the way adults can. These spores are not killed by a little hot water. You need acid or high pressure. Perhaps the syrup may have enough acid?? Also, I do think that more honey in the recipe would help with preservation. Just some thoughts. I LOVE the spices you’ve added to this recipe, yum!

  18. avatar Erin says:

    Actually a closer look at the recipe reveals that you just need to state that your reduced and pressed liquid needs to equal 1 cup. Then add your 1 cup of honey. Any more liquid than that will cause preservation problems. Some folks even use 1 part liquid to 2 parts honey.

  19. avatar KPGoodwin says:

    I found a tincture recipe that called for elderberries, vodka and sugar. Now my bottles are fermenting. What can I do? Will more vodka stop the fermentation?

    • avatar Kori says:

      Hi there~Thank you for sharing your question and for reading the blog. Hmmm…that recipe sounds more like a cordial or liqueur recipe :) Normally, a tincture is just herb and alcohol. The addition of sugar would likely make it ferment a bit more. If you don’t mind the fermentation then it will eventually stop once the sugars have all dissolved. You might give it a taste and see if you like it. If what you want is a more classic tincture, they you may want to start over with just dried elderberries and alcohol. Good luck! ~Kori

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    Erin is the Marketing Director at Mountain Rose and studied herbalism, botany, and ethical wildcrafting at the Columbines School of Botanical Studies. She spends her days making botanical illustrations, playing in the garden, creating culinary gems, and formulating medicine in the magnificent Oregon Cascades.
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