What Is Elderberry and How Do I Cook with It?

Wondering why people can't stop talking about elderberries? There are so many reasons!

What’s a black elderberry? Only one of the most nutrient-dense, delicious berries on the planet!

I’m not actually exaggerating: These berries have grown in popularity over the last few years because of their delicious flavor and antioxidant-packed contents. They’re high in vitamins and fiber, as well as being an excellent source of anthocyanins (the antioxidant that gives these berries their dark color).

If you’ve been able to get your hands on some fresh elderberries, consider yourself lucky! You won’t often find them in the grocery store because of their delicate nature. Big box store suppliers don’t want to risk a long journey only to find a crushed, purple mess in the back of the truck. But, if you live near an area where they’re grown, you may be able to find them at farmers markets. Or, you can forage for them in the wild—although you’ll want to be especially careful: Eating underripe elderberries can be hazardous.

When ripe, these currant-sized berries turn a beautiful shade of black, blue or purple. They’re not overly sweet, but they have a super bright flavor and the perfect earthy and tart balance. That makes them an excellent blending berry with sweeter fruits (like apples or strawberries), but they also blend well with tart fruit like blackberries or mild-flavored grapes.

Can Elderberries Be Used as Medicine?

Among the many benefits of elderberry include a few medicinal uses. A while back, one of our editors discovered some extremely beneficial elderberry syrup benefits, including helping her toddler son recover from a cold! As it turns out, black elderberry benefits may include positively affecting the immune system, protecting against viruses including the flu while potentially reducing inflammation.

Although there have been no serious scientific studies on elderberry benefits, many people report comfort after using it medicinally. According to WebMD, other elderberry syrup uses include boosting the immune system for HIV/AIDs patients, reducing sinus pain, sciatica or nerve pain relief, and as a treatment for chronic fatigue syndrome.

How About Just Enjoying Them?

You don’t have to have a medicinal need to enjoy the many culinary uses of elderberries. There are a multitude of ways to consume them, from using the dried blossoms to make tea to baking with the fresh berries. You can find elderberry extract and elderberry juice at the grocery store (or, online) if you want to add that lovely flavor to your baked goods all year long without having to have fresh berries on hand.

But, when you can find them fresh, whip up a batch of rhubarb elderberry crisp or can your elderberry jelly so you can enjoy all year long.

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Lindsay D. Mattison
After years of working in professional kitchens, Lindsay traded her knives in for the pen. While she spends most of her time writing these days, she still exercises her culinary muscles on the regular, taking any opportunity to turn local, seasonal ingredients into beautiful meals for her family.