The American Elderberry (Sambucus canadensis) is a native shrub that grows in the ditches and hedgerows here. As you can see it has attractive white flowers.The flowers attract all sorts of pollinators, but I don’t know any of their names. I tried to find a list but couldn’t. (If you know of a website that lets you enter a North American native plant and then tells you what pollinators depend on that plant, please let me know.) I’ve read that people dip the flowers in batter and fry them. My thinking is: how does this improve on a doughnut? The flowers must have some flavor to them, because a cordial can be made out of the flowers, and even a soft drink.
We don’t eat the flowers. We just enjoy looking at them, because we are waiting for the berries.Their flavor is a cross between blackberry and currant, with a slightly bitter undertone from the seeds. There must be some variation in flavor, because William Cullina in Native Trees, Shrubs, and Vines calls the berries “sugary,” and I have never in my life encountered elderberries that didn’t need a lot of help in the sweetness department. (Cullina also talks about flower clusters the size of frisbees, and I’ve never seen that, either. Maybe they just grow them bigger and better in Massachusetts.)
Not to worry about the lack of sweetness, because we harvest these berries for pie:
I discovered this in the 1974 edition of Farm Journal’s Country Cookbook, after my husband brought some fresh picked elderberries into the kitchen, and informed me they were used to make pie.
2 crusts pie pastry
2 cups elderberries from American elderberry (Sambucus canadensis)
1 1/2 cups tart apples — chopped and peeled
1 cup sugar
1/8 teaspoon salt
3 tablespoons quick cooking tapioca
2 tablespoons butter
Wash and stem elderberries. Combine elderberries, apples, sugar, salt, and tapioca, crushing berries with back of the spoon. Spoon mixture into pastry-lined 9″ pie pan. Dot with butter and top with lattice crust. Bake at 400 degrees for 35 to 40 minutes, or until apples are tender and crust is golden.
Of course, the birds like the berries, too, so you have to beat them to the berries.
I’d be interested in hearing how you use the flowers or berries in cooking.
Photo of ripe elderberries by me’nthedogs. Posted for Wildflower Wednesday, created by Gail of Clay and Limestone, to share wildflowers/native plants no matter where you garden in the blogasphere. It doesn’t matter if we sometimes show the same plants. How they grow and thrive in your garden is what matters most. It’s always the fourth Wednesday of the month!