How to Use Elderberry


The elderberry is an heirloom plant that grows wild in many parts of the country. It is grown commercially for use in foods and pharmaceuticals and serves as a decorative plant in the lawns of many American homesteads. The berries ripen in late summer and are ready for harvest when the clusters of deep blue berries develop a whitish surface coating.

Step 1

Snip the clusters of elderberries just below the fruit. The flowers can also be harvested and saved separately if desired.

Step 2

Place the harvested berries in a bucket, and transfer to a plastic bag when the bucket gets full. The juice can permanently stain clothing if handled carelessly.

Step 3

Carefully separate the berries from the stems. This can be a time-consuming process.

Step 4

Cook the berries in a pan with water, using low heat. Use about 1/4 pint of water and the juice of one lemon for each pound of berries. Add sugar to taste. When the juices begin flowing, simmer about 15 minutes.

Step 5

Strain the mixture through a double layer of cheesecloth. This process is made easier if the cooked mixture is allowed to drain overnight.

Step 6

The resulting mixture can now be used as the basis for making jams and jellies, elderberry wine or, when mixed with whole berries, for pie fillings and other uses. The berries are high in antioxidants.

Tips and Warnings

  • Make certain the berries you're picking are really elderberries, and not berries from the Scarlet Elder, which looks similar but is inedible. Elderberries are quite bitter and do contain minute amounts of toxic alkaloids. Cooking the berries removes the alkaloids and improves the flavor.

Things You'll Need

  • For harvesting:
  • Clippers
  • Plastic bag
  • Pail or two
  • For cooking:
  • Large pan
  • Picked and cleaned elderberries
  • Cheesecloth
  • Lemon juice


  • elderberry plants
  • elderberry uses
Keywords: elderberry uses, cooking elderberry, harvesting elderberry

About this Author

Garrison Pence has been a midwest-based (ghost)writer for three decades, taught university-level literature, and has written articles and white papers in trade publications of the Material Handling Institute, Engineering Today, Pharmaceutical, Food and Beverage Science, and Semiconductor. Pence holds a Bachelor of Arts in English and a Master of Arts in Literature.