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Old 12-04-2008, 10:20 AM   #1
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Default Sambucus spp -- Elderberry

We've been enjoying elderberries fresh and now from the freezer. I've been putting them in muffins and pancakes, which I've been told is a weird use (usually, it's jellies, pies, or wines). We have a bush in the side yard that's taller than the house, but there are wild ones everywhere, too. We had a small bush in the front yard as well, but it already wasn't doing well this summer, and I think it's become a casulty of a Great Dane puppy.

There seems to be some disagreement on whether there's a true American native (Sambucus canadensis) or whether this is really just a naturalized import from Europe (Sambucus nigra var. canadensis).

There's also disagreement on whether the red-berried varieties are edible (as opposed to the blue-black ones). I hope they are, as I'm pretty sure I've eaten some reddish ones, and I have some freezer bags full of mixed black ones and reddish ones. Elderberries are very small; I can't see myself sorting little tiny frozen berries. I may just examine closely and discard the bags if I think I have true red berries instead of purple (it's a fine line, red and purple). The red varieties are not reported in the South on the USDA database, so I may just have seen some purplish ones after getting used to the nearly black berries on my own elder tree.
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Old 12-04-2008, 11:02 AM   #2
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Casualties to property and plants from Great danes... no, say it ain't so!

DNA cleared up those issues.

I believe there is in fact a true North American native, not one, but two.
http://plants.usda.gov/java/profile?symbol=SANI4

The naturalized European is Sambucus nigra ssp. nigra.
The North American natives are S. nigra ssp. canadensis and S. nigra ssp. cerulea. Taxonomists did their "thang". I have S. nigra ssp. canadensis here from a Wisconsin genotype. The berries are used for jellies and tossed into a pie called a 'Brambleberry" pie and there have always been people who have made wine from the berries.

Berries are pretty much always very dark, almost black for S. nigra ssp. canadensis,
http://www.missouriplants.com/Whiteo...nsis_page.html
http://www.cas.vanderbilt.edu/bioima...ies/sanic4.htm

The nursery industry has been introducing quite a few European Elderberry cultivars. Most notably has been the recent introduction of 'Black Lace' which has become extremely popular thanks to marketing but before that was 'Laciniata', 'Viridis', 'Pulverulenta', 'Guincho Purple', and 'Black Beauty', and 'Aureomarginata' (also extremely popular). Problem is they're hybridizing with the natives so we'll be seeing Eurpean elderberries naturalizing over a greater area in the years to come.

The cultivars are really being pushed which is a shame,
http://www.provenwinners.com/garden/...=13&cat=Shrubs

Some reasons why the NA natives are a superior choice to use in our home landscapes-
http://www.ars.usda.gov/research/pub..._no_115=225049
http://www.ars.usda.gov/SP2UserFiles...elderpolyp.pdf
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Old 12-04-2008, 01:56 PM   #3
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http://74.125.45.132/search?q=cache:...lnk&cd=5&gl=us

Elderberries are unusually rich in antioxidants.

but is this an excuse to propagate European elderberries?
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Old 12-04-2008, 03:47 PM   #4
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I don't know that I'm fit to determine which sort I have. I usually can't make heads or tails of the USDA database, though I try.

Eh, what do I know? I ate the red berries... I think.
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Old 12-04-2008, 05:55 PM   #5
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Quote:
but is this an excuse to propagate European elderberries?
Nope, particularly when the the European Elderberry's cousins are also rich in antioxidants.

The USDA's data base can appear daunting but once you begin to work with it, it gets easier and easier. Promise.

Doesn't matter whether you ate the red berries or not, you're alive and well and still with us so that's all that matters
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Old 12-04-2008, 06:59 PM   #6
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Hope you are feeling well, JennyC.

I have been trying to increase my antioxidants by drinking pomeganate, blueberry and cranberry juice. Unfortunately I forgot about the HFC content (High Fructose Corn Syrup). Even if the antioxidants kept you alive the HFC could kill you! AACK!

Maybe I need to grow my own elderberries.
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Old 12-05-2008, 11:05 AM   #7
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I'm fine, hazelnut, but thanks. If I ate the red berries (sounds like I'm in the Matrix, huh?) it was weeks ago. If I was gonna keel over, I probably would have by now.

Elder and blueberry would be fun to grow. I don't have any blueberries myself.

TheLorax, I wish there were some sort of instructions on the USDA database. Part of my trouble is I don't know what half the abbreviations are for. But I muddle through best I can.

I hope my elderberries are the native sort. Be just my luck that the sad Dane-tampled one was.
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Old 12-05-2008, 12:05 PM   #8
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JennyC - Here's the pdf fact sheet from the USDA site on red elderberry:
http://plants.usda.gov/factsheet/pdf/fs_sara2.pdf

I did a quick Google searching on the toxicity. Here's the gist of what I found:
"Whole plant is poisonous. Ripe fruit is harmless when cooked and is generally considered to have no adverse effect if limited amounts are eaten raw."

It would probably be a good idea to do a little more research in some reputable sources, just to get a better understanding of using elderberries and to relieve any further anxiety.
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Old 12-05-2008, 12:13 PM   #9
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Quote:
Originally Posted by NEWisc View Post
JennyC - Here's the pdf fact sheet from the USDA site on red elderberry:
http://plants.usda.gov/factsheet/pdf/fs_sara2.pdf

I did a quick Google searching on the toxicity. Here's the gist of what I found:
"Whole plant is poisonous. Ripe fruit is harmless when cooked and is generally considered to have no adverse effect if limited amounts are eaten raw."

It would probably be a good idea to do a little more research in some reputable sources, just to get a better understanding of using elderberries and to relieve any further anxiety.
Thanks, NEWisc. I'd forgotten, but I'd found that factsheet when I first picked the red berries (and looking at the picture, shape of the umbrel is different; yep, I ate the red ones!) There's a reference to the red berries being toxic on the PLANT database that set me off on this latest round of worries, but the warning on the factsheet to cook them first makes sense. The purple-black berries should be cooked first, too.

Think I'll go back to eating my berries, cooked. I discoved while picking for the first time that they're pretty nasty-tasting raw anyway.
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Old 01-11-2009, 01:04 PM   #10
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I have discovered that one of the weeds I'm constantly pulling is Elderberry. I'm thinking about letting the one that's up and maybe one or 2 more that come up again alone. Will they fruit from new growth?

If I buy one, the criteria will be yield and taste of berries. I make wine, and I need lots of juice. I will probably share with the birds (no bird netting or stuff like that), unless they're greedy and don't leave any for me.

For yield, how do the natives stack up next to the cultivars?
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black elderberry, edible, elderberry, red elderberry, sambucus, sambucus canadensis, sambucus cerulea, sambucus racemosa, spp, toxicity

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