Thursday, March 19, 2020

A Little Elderberry Lore

When young and living in Nebraska, we used to pick elderberries in the fall to make jelly. Big elderberry bushes grew wild just about everywhere, but especially along the railroad tracks. Here's what they look like.  Each berry is tiny, the size of a small pea, and its juice is very dark. In my opinion, they make the world's best jelly.

Compounds from elderberries can directly inhibit the influenza virus’ entry and replication in human cells, and can help strengthen a person’s immune response to the virus. Image credit: Anemone123.

Recently I heard that elderberries are good at warding off cold and flu symptoms. We might need this, right? Then I found this article in Science News, May 2019, expounding the virtues of elderberries.  "... compounds from elderberries exhibit multiple modes of therapeutic action against influenza infection."

Another source said that elderberries have been used for health purposes for over 2,000 years.

As a precautionary measure, I found an over-the-counter cold and flu preparation based on elderberries at Walgreens. It comes in several forms, but I got tablets that melt on your tongue. Hubby had a cough (no fever)... and I also tried them as a preventative. We agree, the taste is decent!

My most vivid memory of elderberries was making jelly with a friend. My father-in-law showed up one day with (surprise!) a HUGE box of elderberries. My friend Gwen and I worked together to make them into jelly. She had a baby boy in a high chair, and we gave him a single berry. He held it between his four little front teeth and bit. Deep dark purple juice squirted out, staining his lips and soon thereafter most of his face. He must have liked it, I don't recall a fuss. And the jelly was the best! Dark, flavorful, and yummy!

I wrote about elderberry jelly in 2014 and put the poem away... so here, for you, is its debut:

Elderberry Jelly

Pick some plumpish elderberries
Deeply purple, almost black
Cook them in a jelly pot
Make a jellied berry snack

Squeeze the berry juice out slowly
Bubble liquid 'til it's thick
Pour the jellied juice in jars
Pop the top on quick

Taste the deep rich berry flavor
I think no jelly could excel it
Wear your berry purple smile
Who cares that grape outsells it?

© Karen Eastlund

This info should be heeded:
Image result for when and how is it safe to eat elderberries
Cooked ripe elderberries are perfectly edible. Unripe elderberries are poisonous. Raw berries can cause nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea, among other symptoms, so be sure to cook them before eating.

I invite you to explore elderberries for health and eating pleasure. Check your farm stands, they often have elderberry jelly on their shelves. Elderberry wine is also mentioned, though I admit I have not tasted it. 

It's Poetry Friday, so join the gang at Michelle Kogan's.  She's highlighting a poem from The Best of Today's Little Ditty 2017-2018 in which I also have a poem. An honor, I'm sure! 

Be good
Be well
Stay safe out there

Get sleep
Wash hands
And please take care.

Best, Karen


  1. What a wonderful post! A fb friend of mine makes elderberry syrup. I never knew what these berries were growing all OVER the place here in VA. Maybe I will venture to make some jelly too! My favorite line is, "wear your purple berry smile." Wonderful!

  2. Thanks for the elderberry goodness today, Karen. Next time I am in the drug store, I am going to look for this product. It is good to know that elderberries are in VA as Linda said. Next time I visit my granddaughters, I am going to scan the environment during our nature walks. Stay well, Karen.

  3. Wonders of nature are everywhere if we only discover and share, Karen! I love your memories, and the veritable "zing" of that final line of your poem. Wishes to you also to be safe and well!

  4. I've never had elderberries, but have spent afternoons picking wild blackberries and then making jam. I've even made dandelion jelly. Now I wonder if I can find elderberries....

  5. My parents (who are in VA) have elder trees and they have given me a ton of elderberries, which I make into syrup. They are great for your health. I learned recently that, if you have COVID-19 symptoms, you should not have elderberry syrup at that point. Something to do with cytokine storm. (Which is different than the flu, because you can keep having elderberry syrup during the flu) (P.S. Don't eat them raw.) xo

    1. Thanks for your input, Tabatha. I updated my post to include more info about eating elderberries. I don't know about using it for Covid-19 specifically, but the Science News article seems to say it would help. That said, I am not a health professional, so... please everyone, do your own research... I'm sorry if this is misleading... I do know the jelly is good!

    2. Hi! To be clear, I love elderberry syrup! When someone asked me this morning what one thing I would have as a preventative, I said elderberry syrup (with reishi second). I was just saying not to take it *after* COVID-19 symptoms develop.

  6. I have read of historical heroines sipping elderberry cordial. I'm not surprised it is beneficial! And fascinating to hear about raw elderberries - and Tabatha's cautions, too. (Tabatha nurtured me along when I was unwell with her. She's a treasure!) I love the last line of your poem. Great finish! For me, guava jelly was always a special treat, made by my great aunt. It was almost-liquid gold. Take care there, too.

  7. I've never tasted elderberry jelly, syrup, or otherwise. Because of your poem, Karen, I think I will definitely have some elderberry jelly if the opportunity presents itself. :)

  8. I love how you rhymed "excel it" with "outsells it." CLEVER!! :-) And your closing sweet. (As sweet as elderberry jelly!)

    My favorite super food is GINGER! I make a cup of tea each morning with slices of fresh ginger and honey. Yum!

    1. Mary Lee... I will have to try that, it sounds delicious. I have grown ginger, but have not tried the tea.

  9. Hi, Karen. This is such a rich post! I imagine people will be rediscovering natural foods and remedies during this time. You had me wishing we had elderberries growing in our yard.

  10. Thanks for sharing your delightful elderberry-stained memories, Karen! It's probably not the right season (?) for making jelly, but it does sound like it would be a wonderful family activity to enjoy together.

  11. Thanks for your cornucopia of elderberry info and lovely poem! Hope your husbands cough gets better. Stay well.

  12. My grandfather used to make elderberry wine, many years ago. I did not know about its health benefits (nor was I ever allowed to try it!) Thanks for all your elderberry memories, and triggering mine.

  13. Hi, Karen - Oh, such a timely post - thanks for sharing the memories, the poem, and the info! My hubby has an Ayurveda counseling practice on the side, and he made elderberry syrup this winter for us to have a spoonful of each day. Then I discovered the same products you featured at the grocery store, and we've kept those handy too. Stay well, and thanks for all the goodness! :0)