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Elder tree

Edible Edible Autumn Autumn Spring Spring Summer Summer

A great foragers shrub that’s very common and has three edible crops.

Hedgerow Type
Common Names Elder tree
Scientific Name Sambucus nigra
Season Start May
Season End Oct
Please note that each and every hedgerow item you come across may vary in appearance to these photos.

Leaves

Ovate, toothed leaves that look a little like Ground Elder leaves.

Flowers

Large umbels of off white to cream, small flowers, looking almost ‘frothy’ from April to June.

Flower Buds

Hundreds of small, green, rugby ball shaped flower buds.

Fruit

Large clusters of dark purple to black, juice laden berries.

Bark

The tree has a light coloured bark and the branches are quite brittle.

Habitat

Hedgerows, woodland, gardens, in fact elders are not fussy and will grow almost anywhere given enough light.

Possible Confusion

It is quite difficult to confuse this tree with any other especially when in flower or fruiting or when the leaves are crushed and smelt.

Smell

The leaves have an unpleasant smell as can the flowers and when left in a bag for a short length of time smell very like cats urine.

Taste

The flowers have a sweetish taste, the berries are rather bland and best used with other fruit or used to make wine.

Frequency

Very common.

Collecting

Only the flowers and berries are edible on this tree, and you shouldn’t eat too many berries raw, the rest of the tree is poisonous and contains compounds that are metabolised into cyanide within the body.
Never try to climb an Elder tree, the branches are very brittle.

Medicinal Uses

It seems to be mostly good for respiratory problems, including bronchitis, coughs, congestion, sinus, flu and sore throats.

Other Facts

Elder flowers make a great cordial or for us, an even easier to make and better tasting champagne, see Recipes. The flowers can also be used to make a lovely syrup or dipped in a light sweet batter and deep fried.

The berries are best used to make wine or mixed with other berries or used to make Pontiac sauce.

There is another crop from the Elder and that is the Wood Ear, Auricularia auricula-judae, a mushroom that can be found at all times of year growing from dead limbs or stumps of Elder.

SeeĀ  www.wildfooduk.com/mushroom-guides/wood-ears-mushroom/

There are other species of Sambucus in the UK but most are ornamental and grown in peoples gardens, the berries of which must be cooked before consumption.

The Elder tree has a strong association with witches and folk medicine.

 

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