Norma first convinced me about the benefits of elderberry syrup. I admit to a brief moment of skepticism but Norma is fierce when it comes to these matters and it wasn't long before I was a believer. I was buying it at my health food store and then last year when I was reading down the list of available fruits at a pick your own farm I happened upon elderberries and thought I would make my own. Last September turned out to be such a transitional mess that it didn't happen.
I often pick berries with my friend F, the biologist and I mentioned the elderberry syrup idea to her.
She knew of a few spots they were growing in the wild. I put her on Berry Watch and she called me last week to say that they were ripe and we should go soon.
I borrowed The Husband's rubber boots, put on jeans and long sleeves, a mosquito jacket, brought a fork and a basket and headed over to her house. She had warned me about having to cross a stream but I didn't realise my boots were not quite high enough for the task. I had read about picking the elderberries off the stems with a fork and we quickly realised this was in fact a great idea. Elderberries are small.
Guarding these bushes was a rather large stand of stinging nettle, thank goodness for the long sleeves.
At least there are no mosquitoes, we each commented.
After dropping the fork in the stream once, and soaking my socks we headed down and across the road and found an even larger patch. Picture taking came to a halt as I would have needed five hands. There was no water here, just lots of ripe berries and a bumper crop of... mosquitoes. Now by September mosquitoes should be long gone but clearly nobody told these mosquitoes that. F abandoned her picking but I put on the bug jacket and carried on, although I abandoned the fork method and just grabbed the whole stems.
I think the reason for the outrageous price of elderberry syrup in stores was brought home as we went along. This was slow work, with lots of bending down of high branches to reach the fullest stems, sped up only by the biting bugs.
But it's also great to be out on a warm, sunny late summer day in the country, puttering around in wellies... and uh, wet socks. You can't put a price on that.
F is from England and she had many old cookbooks with elderberry recipes and also interesting wartime ones, with recipe notations such as, "If you can spare the sugar..."
This one explains the benefits as well.
She also has only dial up internet so is never that interested in looking up recipes online like I did.
We both made syrup and came out with exactly the same amount. One large bottle and a little left over, which went into the freezer in my case in two small containers.
F was thinking of going back out to try to find a few more bushes.
We thought maybe a little jam would be nice.