Some of the links below are affiliate links. If you choose to make a purchase we may earn a small commission at no additional cost to you.
July through October is elderberry harvesting time, depending of course on your zone. Called a bush, that’s actually a tree and yet in the honeysuckle family (!!), elderberries can grow in most areas of the US and Canada.
Before we dive in, as always, consult a doctor and read my disclaimer.
Start looking for them along roadsides and hugging wooded perimeters, especially in areas of damp soil, where they can be found growing abundantly in the wild, and you might find you have a ready supply already available.
But not to worry. If you don’t have access to wild elderberries in your area, you can likely still grow them. Elderberries grow best in USDA growing zones 3-8. Elderberries grow into large shrubs, but can also be planted and trained as an edible hedge or edible fence. They have fragrant edible flowers and edible berries that are considered amongst the “super foods” because they are nutrient dense with high antioxidant benefit.
Elderberries and elderflowers are often found in natural remedies for cold and flu, but they have many other health benefits as well. You can consume the fragrant flowers and ripened berries of the Sambucus Nigra, raw or cooked, but not the green ones. All other elderberry fruits are edible cooked only.
Never consume the leaves, roots, twigs and stems of elderberry as they are NOT edible. Indigenous to North America, (and other parts of the world as well), Native American Indians used the berries and flowers as food and medicine and the stems and branches for tools, pipes and weapons, such as arrows.
When it comes to foraging elderberry, you’ll need to be aware of the look-alike plants that are NOT safe to eat. Lookalike plants to avoid are: pokeberry and especially water hemlock, so study the differences before you head out, and better yet, take identifiers with you to be sure, such as An Edible Field Guide to North American Plants.