Elderberries cannot be eaten raw. Not only do they taste terrible, but they contain a small amount of a poisonous alkaloid that can make you sick. Drying elderberries gets rid of the alkaloid and concentrates their unique flavor. Once dry, elderberry has a number of uses. It can be made into an infusion or a tea to relieve cold and flu symptoms. Or, it can be used in a number of recipes. Dried elderberries, if properly stored in the refrigerator, can last up to six months.
Wait until elderberry clusters have turned upside down and their fruit is ripe and purple to pick them. Overripe elderberries are unsuitable for drying.
Rinse any dirt and debris off the elderberry clusters.
Hang the elderberry clusters in a cool, dark place until they are dry. They should be suspended so that their berries hang down.
Poke several air holes in a paper sandwich bag and place it over the berry clusters (secure the top of the bag with a rubber band). As the elderberry dries, the bag will catch any berries that fall.