Blue Elderberry

July 30, 2015

Blue Elderberry

July 30, 2015
Posted in: Nature | Reading Time: 2 minutes

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Blue Elderberry, Sambucus cerulea or Sambucus nigra ssp. cerulea -  157/365

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It took me a while to identify this berry shrub because elderberry is typically dark burgundy or blackish. Blue elderberry is native to California in diverse habitats, across the Pacific coast, in mountains, hills, valleys, open space and forests. Don’t let the photo deceive you. Each berry-like drupe is only 4-6 mm in diameter! That’s teeny weeny!

Indigenous peoples of North America used the leaves, blossoms, bark, roots and wood for traditional medicine, taken internally or applied externally. Typically, elderberry is used for treating flu, allergies and boosting overall respiratory health.

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Blue Elderberry, Sambucus cerulea or Sambucus nigra ssp. cerulea -  157/365

Other species of Elderberry, such as Sambucus nigra, are used in food, to make syrup. Fanta markets a soft drink based on the syrup called Shokata. Though the Italian liqueur Sambuca from its name, seems like it is derived from Elderberry, it is mostly made with star anise and fennel essential oils extracted by vapor distillation. The extract of the elderflower is only added for a floral flavor, to smooth and round off the strong licorice flavor. In Germany, yogurt is made from both its berries and flowers. Wines and marmalade are also produced from elderberries and its flowers. In Italy, the umbrels of the elderberry are batter coated, fried and served as a dessert or sweet lunch with sugar or cinnamon topping.

Despite its use in foods, uncooked berries and other parts of the plants are poisonous. The twigs, leaves, branches, seeds and roots contain cyanide-inducing glycoside. Ingesting a lot can cause toxic buildup of cyanide. In 1984, a group of 25 people got sick from fresh pressed elderberry juice, but they all recovered.

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