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Our Mission: To enable individuals and communities to take an active part in the cultivation of systems that provide the highest quality fruits, vegetables, herbs and other yields, in a way that benefits themselves, cares for the land and environment, and provides a surplus to use, share and reinvest into the system.

Sunday, January 10, 2016

Healing and Delicious Elderberry

Elderberry shrubs are one of my favorite plants.

Common Elderberry (Sambuccus nigra & S. Canadensis) grows well on marginal land and is useful for stabilizing soils in highly erodible areas.  Their dense foliage works well as a privacy screen. 

Large flower clusters bloom throughout Spring and Summer.  These flowers are a favorite of pollinators, and edible.  The clusters can be battered and deep fried into a flower fritter or the petals themselves used to flavor pancakes or teas.

The berries are delicious and are used in jams, pies, syrups and wine.  Elderberry syrup is also an effective remedy for colds and flu.  These excellent berries are also a favorite food of many birds and other wildlife, so to get a good harvest you'll want to be ready when they ripen in July and August. 

Never eat red berries from toxic varieties, only the blue or purple berries!

The stems and wood of elderberry can be used for many crafts.  Native Americans used them from arrows to baskets and flutes to blowguns!  When we were kids we used the straight canes for arrows in our homemade bows.

Now is the perfect time to start your own!  The plants are dormant now and do well from hardwood cuttings.  Learn how in the new video below!

In the video I use wild plants.  I've collected cuttings in the past from my parents or along streams while hiking or hunting.  These generally grow from five to ten feet tall, with white flowers and dark purple fruit.  You can often find this water loving plant growing along the edges of woods and along stream banks.

There are also named cultivars, such as Johns, York and Adams.  These can have special characteristics such as more ornamental flowers or more or larger fruit.  Usually for the best fruit set you will need two or more named varieties.  You may decide to purchase one of these to fit your needs.

Take advantage of the dormant season and collect some hardwood cuttings.  Try your hand at this technique.  I wish you success with healthy roots this Spring, and abundance in the years to come.

Stay warm and have a great week!

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