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  • Writer's pictureMelanie

Get foraging and boost your immunity with elderberry syrup!

Updated: Jul 11, 2023

I love this time of year when the hedgerows are bursting with blackberries just ready to be picked for a crumble. But it’s not only the blackberries I go looking for; over the last few years, I’ve also picked elderberries. These are the tiny deep purple berries that are found on the European elderberry or black elder, also known as the Sambucas tree. Elderberries can be foraged in the UK from July to September, they are just coming to ripeness now in Yorkshire.

elderberries on the stalk

Elderberry syrup is made from elderberries and has been used for traditional medicinal purposes for hundreds of years. It has been proven to reduce the severity of the flu, it is thought to support the immune system. Elderberries are high in vitamin C, an antioxidant which not only reduces the risk of chronic illness but also can be helpful for people with low iron levels or high blood pressure. Elderberries are also high in anthocyanins, which have been shown to be protective of brain health.


If you would like to try foraging and making your own elderberry syrup, there is a recipe below which makes about a litre. Feel free to add in extras such as sliced ginger or a cinnamon stick while the syrup is cooking if you want to further boost the benefits and add a bit more richness to the flavour!

The elderberries should be picked on a sunny day for full flavour. Use a fork to pull them off the stalks. Wash the berries in a sieve before using.

bottle of elderberry syrup with elderberries in baskets

Ingredients:

500g approx. plump elderberries, de-stalked.

500g approx. white caster sugar

1 lemon, juiced.


Method:

Tip the berries into a thick-based saucepan. Cover with water, until there is about 1cm water showing above the berries. Add any extras like ginger or cinnamon, if using.

Bring to the boil, then turn down the heat and simmer gently for 15-20 mins until the berries have softened into a liquid. Leave to cool slightly.

Strain the mixture through a fine sieve and measure how much liquid you have. For every 500ml of liquid, you’ll need 400g of sugar. Tip the sugar and liquid back into the cleaned saucepan with the lemon juice. Bring up to a simmer and simmer gently for about 10 mins until all the sugar has dissolved. Leave the syrup to cool completely and then bottle in sterilised bottles or jars. Store in the fridge for up to three months, or can be frozen for up to a year.

The syrup can be taken neat, I use 1-2tsp a day if I feel I have a cold coming on, or can be diluted with hot or cold water to drink, or drizzled over ice cream. You could even try it with some bubbly in an elderberry Kir Royale!


Note:

Elderberries must not be eaten raw as they can be toxic. People with birch pollen allergies may experience an allergic reaction to elderberry syrup. If you are taking prescribed medication including diuretics, immune suppressants or if you have an auto-immune condition, please check with your GP before taking elderberry syrup.


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