Among my friends, when the subject of berry picking comes up at the 19th hole, it often involves elderberries. Someone will invariably state that there just are not as many of them as there were when they were growing up.
That may be true.
Or it may be that as a kid they spent a lot more time goofing off in a number of different outdoor places during the prime growing time - berry growth that is.
You see, in June when school was out for the summer and kids were out and about rather than in classes, they were also out when the elderberries were just starting their blossoms. Throughout that summer vacation those berries were growing and the kid in us took notice of where they were. Now, in retrospect, it seems as if elderberries were everywhere.
I really don't know for sure whether there are less elderberries nowadays or not, but I do know this. I have no trouble finding all I need every year in addition to selling gallons upon gallons to those that don't pick them for whatever reason.
If you normally find a lot of elderberries than you don't need to read this.
Elderberries make possibly the best jelly there is, no matter what your favorite fruit is.
My favorite fruit is Blueberry and although I make and like blueberry jelly I still would rather have Black Elderberry.
And it makes a great wine.
Now there is evidence, based upon European studies, that elderberry syrup wards off the onset of influenza. What a great reason/excuse for making gads of syrup for waffles and pancakes.
Find them, clean them and when time permits in the fall or winter you can juice them up for whatever end result your heart desires.
Rendering the elderberries to clean juice, ready for jelly, syrup etc., is the subject of another tutorial.
2. Tools that help in the future acquisition of Black Elderberries.
Writing tablet / logbook / journal
Pen or pencil
GPS ( optional and very helpful but not necessary )
3. Procedure / technique
Finding Black Elderberry Patches For Later Picking.
Black elderberries start to show themselves in my area, southwest Pennsylvania, around June. By mid June the big bunches of Elder Blossoms can be seen from pretty far away. I have spotted some bushes from as far away as a quarter mile across some fields.
Blossoms, as shown below, are a cluster of tiny individual flowers, each of which will turn into a little black jewel of a berry like in the photo above.
Click the photo to see a closer view of the make-up of these tiny blossoms.
If you like to ride around on country backroads why not keep your eyes peeled for these blossoms.
Once you have your eyes trained to spot them you will start to see them on a regular basis during your travels.
Each time you spot a patch decide if it is one that is worth coming back to for berries. Also decide if the access to the berries will be available. You don't need to trespass to get a lot of elderberries.
This group, as seen from the car, seems to have easy access however when I got out to check it for future possibilities I saw that to get to it there was a hazardous slope down off the road with large limestone rocks, vines and brambles. I had visions of broken bones. It just was not worth it, especially based on the size of the bush.
That was not written in the logbook.
The patch below was at the end of a country church parking lot. Easy to get to. A clean area. Hardly any traffic on the road to pollute local vegatation.
I asked for and received permission to pick the berries, or blossoms, whenever I wanted. The blossoms are also edible. That will be the subject of another article later.
This patch went into the logbook.
Here is a group I found near the entrance of a state park parking lot. This was eventually turned into several 5 gallon buckets of berry clusters.
Once you get on to the technique of writing down your finds you will be surprised as to how many places you spot Black Elderberries growing.
Here is an example of what I keep track of in my logbook under the Elderberry heading:
Location. Describe it as best as possible ( e.g. south end of parking lot by the swimming area of Kooser Park )
Permission. Yes, Not needed. ( If the answer is no don't bother entering it in the log.)
Patch Size. Bush, Bunch or Patch. ( Bush is small, Bunch is bigger, Patch is a lot )
Access. Easy, treacherous, long walk.
I pick many, many wild Black Elderberries every year. I keep enough for the jelly, syrup and for wine making purposes.
The other gallons are sold to customers that could or would pick their own if they knew how to find them.
They often ask me how I find them since there are not many around. I just smile and agree.
If they went with me they would be astounded as to how many there actually are. You just have to know where to go. Hopefully this little article will help.
Driving around and trying to find them when the berries are ripe is difficult because, most often, the berry clusters get very heavy and droop over leaving only the foilage of the plant visible.
In some open areas you can spot them but if amongst a lot of growth you can miss them entirely.