Elderberries are harvested from elderberry bushes (also called elderberry trees), hardy plants that can tolerate cold environments all the way to USDA plant hardiness zone 3. Elderberries are used when making jams, pies and baked goods, even wines. Elderberries grow in clusters called panicles. The panicles containing the cluster of berries are usually harvested from late July until early Sepember, depending on your climate. It takes about 21 days of weekly harvests to pick all the berries.
Evaluate the panicles. All the berries on one panicle should be ripe in color. Colors depend on variety, for example, the common elder (Sambucus nigra) is dark blue or black when ripe.
Clip off the panicles with the ripe berries and place them gently in a bucket for easy transportation.
Freeze the panicles and then shake off the elderberries. Don't worry, you can freeze them again if desired.
Look at the berries. Keep the ones that are full and have no insect holes or bruises.