I absolutely love this time of year for being able to gather wild food. Along with the usual hoards of blackberries (which of course are perfect for crumbles with buckets of custard, or if I’m feeling virtuous perhaps i’ll pop a few in a smoothie) I’ve really enjoyed learning about wild mushroom picking. Now a word of warning, I would never go out and do this alone, and wouldn’t suggest anyone else starts randomly picking pretty looking fungi! I’m fortunate enough that my other half knows a thing or two and has learnt from a pro, so I’ve been going out with him and the dogs and learning as I go.
Whilst out and about, it’s been pretty hard to avoid the Sambucus Nigra tree, more commonly known as the Elder Tree. September is the ideal time to collect the berries, so this weekend we went out armed with baskets for the mushrooms, and bags for the elderberries!
The Sambucus Nigra berry has amazing health benefits, and is especially handy for heading into winter (don’t you just love how mother nature provides what we need just at the right time?) The most important health benefits of elderberries include their ability to alleviate allergies, boost the immune system, protect against bacteria and infection, lower blood sugar, help with weight loss, lower blood pressure and moderate the digestive process.
These punchy little berries are packed with nutrients including minerals like iron, potassium, phosphorous, and copper, as well as Vitamins A, B and C, proteins and dietary dietary fibre. The key thing I was interested in is the immune boosting element, so I decided to make some Elderberry syrup as a little pre winter tonic, so did some research online for recipes, and came across this one, which I liked the look of because it uses raw honey as opposed to sugar.
Elderberry Syrup Recipe
1 Part Fresh Elderberries
2 Parts Water
1 Part Raw honey
Optional: bit of cinnamon stick or fresh ginger
Remove all the berries from the stalks (the reason this is important, is the stalks actually have traces of cyanide in. This can build up and cause health problems, so exercise caution when picking your berries off). The best way to do this is using a fork to slide them off into a bowl of water. You will still have to pick the smaller bits off but this does save some time. Once in the water, any unripe berries will float to the top, so discard of those.
Add your berries along with twice as much water to a saucepan, along with any extras (I had a large yoghurt pot full of berries, and added about an inch square of ginger sliced up, and one cinnamon stick) Bring to a simmer, and let it gently bubble away for 30 mins, mashing the berries with a fork every once in a while.
When off the heat, ideally you will pass it all through a muslin cloth, or if you don’t have this, you can use a sieve, you just won’t end up with such a clear liquid. Allow to cool to a warm, but not too cool temperature and stir in your 1 part of raw honey. Pour into your chosen glass containers and allow to cool further before putting lids on.
This will keep for a few weeks when stored in the fridge.
Take 1 to 2 tablespoons twice a day to boost your immune system as we head for the winter months.
If you have any other tips for keeping well naturally I would love to hear them!