Elderberries - Hidden heroes of the County Down hedgerows
Only in season for a small window in Autumn, Elderberries are a much neglected, locally forageable ingredient, suitable for all manner of delicious recipes.
The wee purplish-black ripe berries hang prolifically in clusters in our native hedgerows, and because they are not grown commercially, picking your own is the only option. The easiest way to remove the berries from the stalks is to strip them using the prongs of a fork. It's a messy business though - the inky juices will stain clothes and hands; in fact in the past, the berries were used to make a purple dye. It’s worth it however, because these versatile little berries are so full of possibilities.
Their overall flavour is quite rich, so they work particularly well mixed with other Autumn fruits like plums, apples and pears. From warming puddings to punchy elderberry liqueur, they are a great rustic autumnal ingredient, but it is recommended to cook them first, as they can contain minor toxins in their raw state that can cause nausea in some people.
These little beauties have also been used medicinally for hundreds of years, with some preliminary studies demonstrating that elderberry may have a measurable effect in treating the flu, alleviating allergies, and boosting overall respiratory health.
Only in season for a small window in Autumn, Elderberries are a much neglected, locally forageable ingredient, suitable for all