Elderberry Power: Health Benefits + How to Dry Them
When we moved to Colorado, I had no idea what kind of native plants, flowers, and shrubs bloomed here. So imagine my delight to find a large elderberry bush blooming right in my own backyard with luscious, healing, medicinal, elderberries! As it turns out, the area we moved to was once all farmland, and since elderberries thrive on organic waste matter, they’re a common plant to this region.
Prime harvest season is the end of July and early August, so get ready to start picking! Today we’re covering the benefits of elderberries (Sambucus nigra) with a few tips on preserving and drying them. If you don’t have a bush or fresh source, consider dried berries to store, because “Winter is coming” (queue Game of Thrones fans).
Elderberry Power: So many benefits
These berries have helped people with colds, cases of flu, rheumatism, and even constipation. They’re high in vitamin C and have moderate amounts of vitamin B6, and iron. FYI – elderberries are not compensating me in any way for up-selling them. 😉
Three years ago, my four kids and I got the flu. We laid on the couch and barely moved for one week. I believe we watched our yearly quota of television that week. It was horrible. Parents cannot be sick. Ever.
Shortly after that happened, I came across a recipe for a syrup with elderberries that claimed, “take it before you get the flu and stay immune”. What? Stay immune? Is that possible? The next year, a friend of mine claimed that she had not had the flu in seven years because she takes elderberry concoctions that she makes during flu season.
Fight the Flu
Fast forward one year later.
I decided to give it a try. I made some elderberry syrup with raw honey and gave it to my kids, myself and my husband (who’s immune system is amazing). No flu. Then we moved, in November. The beginning of illness and germs. Great.
Elderberries were the farthest thing from my mind and BOOM! The winter flu hit my kids and I (maybe my husband should write about immunity, just saying). Couch potatoes for a solid week. During that week, I thought about my little helper: elderberries. I was so sad I hadn’t thought of it sooner. Well this year, I’m prepared. God’s gifts come in small packages sometimes.
Let’s talk drying. Now, to those of you who purchase them dried, good for you. The rest of us who want to put in the hard labor of drying these, read on. I’M KIDDING. They literally dry themselves! To harvest fresh elderberries:
- Pick black clusters of berries. Put in bowl.
- Remove the vines and leaves and wash very well without soap. You may see small spider mites – DON’T FREAK, they are normal. Ok, now I’ve lost some of you...
- Lay paper towels on cookie sheets and place washed berries on top. If you have screen material you can use that too.
I’ve dried my elderberries in various ways:
Option 1: In the oven
1.) Preheat the oven for 3 minutes and then turn off.
2.) Place the cookie sheets with elderberries into the oven and shut the door. Let them sit in there with the oven turned off.
3.) If I would need the oven for cooking, I would simply take the berries out, cook my food, turn OFF the oven, and place them back in. This took roughly 3 days.
Option 2: In the sun
1.) Place cookie sheets in direct sunlight, away from dogs and children (I put mine on the trampoline), until dry.
2.) This method doesn’t attract insects and you can leave the berries outside during the night. This method took about 3 days.
Option 3: Dehydrate
1.) Drying big batches is often less hassle if you’re using a dehydrator. Paula dries her fruits at 135 degrees until they’re dry, but your dehydrator directions may be different. Be sure to follow manufacturer’s directions for drying fruit.
Try it yourself
Hopefully, I’ve ignited a fire to try these amazing berries for yourself. There are some amazing recipes out there, so don’t be afraid to experiment a little because these babies pack potential! Thanks for staying with me, even after the spider mites.
Don’t Google them.
Have you dried elderberries before? What’s your favorite method?