The black elderberry (sambucus canadensis), also known as American Elderberry, is a shrub or small tree produces black berries and beautiful white or cream-colored flowers that are some of the most beneficial and healthy for you. In fact, you can use them to make wine, juice, syrup. The plants themselves are hardy (3-9), Additionally, these plants are very productive, fast growing and can tolerate wet and dry sites, which makes them the perfect plants for a garden.
- Uses: You can use the flowers to make wine and the fruits you can make pies and preserves. Since many people don’t prefer the raw fruit, it is better to cook it. While you can eat the elderflowers raw or cooked, the berries, leaves, and bark contain a toxic substance which can lead to nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea. This is why it is important to cook the berries.
- Benefits: Elderberries are very good for your body. Not only do they contain antioxidants which limit the damage of free radicals, but they also boost your immune system, decrease stress and inflammation. People have used elderberries for the common cold, the flu, sinus pain, back and leg pain, nerve pain, chronic fatigue syndrome, cancer, heart disease, high cholesterol, headache, toothache, and weight loss.
- Taste: Elderberries have a bright, earthy and tart flavor which complements sweeter fruits such as strawberries really well. Additionally they can go well with other tart fruits such as blackberries.
- Size: Depending on how you prune, an elderberry can be a shrub or a tree, ranging from 5-20 feet and have a spread of 6-12 feet. In fact, elderberries grow very fast.
- Color: When the elderberry is ripe, it will turn from green to deep purple/black. It’s important to pick the elderberries when they are ripe since under ripe elderberries will not ripen after being harvested. Do not eat elderberries when green.
- Hardiness Zones: 3 – 9
- Disease resistance
- Elderberries can have these common diseases, cankers, leaf spots, and powdery mildews.
- Elderberries have moderate resistance to deer.
- Harvest period: The berries will ripen from mid August to mid September.
- Pollination: Elderberries need cross-pollination in order to produce fruit. Therefore plant another variety no more than 60 feet away.
- Cultivation: These plants prefer a moist, well-drained soil with a pH of 5.5 to 6.5. However since they are adaptable, they can be grown in other types of soil as well. They do need full to part sun. Additionally, you can add mulch to control the weeds. Lastly, be sure to water them deeply the first season after planting.
- Storage: You can keep these berries refrigerated before using them. If you want the sweet flavor of the blue berries, be sure to cook them.