Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Elderberry Vodka

Fall is slowly winding its way across the valley, acorns are dropping, and the big leaf maple is starting to glow. Autumn is such a wonderful time of harvest and abundance. Wild and cultivated fruits beckon with a myriad of colors and textures, and mushrooms are about to start popping up all over the Pacific Northwest. 

Elderberries--Sambucus cerulea are one of my favorite wild fruits to harvest in the late summer/early fall. They can sometimes be tricky to access, but the beautiful umbels of blushing blue berries are worth the effort. 
Elder has a long history of edible and medicinal uses (both the flowers and the fruits) and is a common winter herbal used to activate the the immune system (immuno-stimulant) and as an anti-viral agent. 

For some ethnobotanical and ecological information on elderberry, check out Plants for a Future, The Living Wild Project, or the USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) plant guide.  

If you are interested in learning more about scientific research into the medicinal properties of elderberry, the links below might be good places to start:

Regulation of Inflammatory Gene Expression in PBMCs by Immunostimulatory Botanicals

Sigma Aldrich Plant Profiler 

Because of the lovely berry taste, even young and picky eaters are apt to enjoy it. I usually make elderberry syrup with some of the berries I collect, and use the rest to make a fruit relish, prepared similarly to cranberry relish. This year I made elderberry infused vodka; it looks, smells, and tastes delightful. 

Elderberry vodka lemonade. Divine!



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