Skip to main content

An almost constant presence in my early life in Derbyshire was the elder tree. It was found in most country hedgerows, and in late Spring its masses of creamy-white blossom filled the air with a sweet perfume. The European Black Elder (Sambucus nigra) is widespread in Northern Europe, and along with the European Red Elder (Sambucus racemosa) is a member of a family of more than 20 species spread throughout the world.

Although the elder tree can grow to more than 20 feet tall, many are found in the form of dense shrubs, due to the regular trimming of hedgerows, or the competition for light/space with other vegetation. For hundreds, possibly thousands, of years, the flowers and ripe fruit of the elder tree have been known to have powerful curative properties. Talking about the elder, John Evelyn (1620-1706), the English gardener and diarist, stated, ”If the medicinal properties of its leaves, bark, and berries were fully known, I cannot tell what our country men would ail for which he might not fetch a remedy from every hedge either for sickness or wounds.” However, care must be taken, as the stems and leaves contain sambunigrin, a cyanogenic glucoside which can accumulate in human tissues; only ripe, black berries, should be picked. Still, elderflower ‘champagne’ or a rich elderberry wine are both possible!

The German region of Bavaria is home to a number of elder-based recipes, amongst them ‘Hollerküchln’. This involves picking fresh clusters of elder flowers – they are borne in corymbs, or flat bunches – then rinsing them to remove any insects. These are plunged into a rich batter, then quickly fried; they are crunchy, and delicious! Elderflowers are also the basis of a pleasant tea, which is claimed to have anti-inflammatory powers, and be beneficial to those suffering from a cold or ‘flu. It is said that the flavonoids contained in elderberries are also a strong stimulant to the human immune system. They seem to modulate the production of several classes of cytokines in human cells. Some cytokines can be important cellular harbingers of inflammation, and work has been done showing the effect of elderberry products on inflammatory diseases such as arthritis, e.g. European Cytokine Network, 2001, April-June; 12 (2) pg 290-296, ‘The effect of Sambucol, a black elderberry-based natural product, on the production of human cytokines: 1. Inflammatory cytokines’, Barack, V; Halperin, T; Kalickinan, I.

As well as providing human-kind with food, drink and medicine, the elderberry is a prime food for mammals and birds. The Red Squirrel (Sciurus vulgaris) and the Eastern Gray Squirrel (Sciurus carolinensis) will both take the berries, as will the Common Dormouse (Muscardinus avellanarius). Among the many bird species known to enjoy elderberries are the Whitethroat (Slyvia communis), Common Blackbird (Turdus merula) and Common Wood Pigeon (Columba palumbus). As you can see from the rather bare-looking cluster of elderberries shown in this Yorkshire hedgerow, the birds have already started to feast on the riper fruits. Truly, it may be said that the elder is one of the most useful and delightful of European wild shrubs!

http://peoplesmosquito.org.uk

http://shortfinals.wordpress.com

Originally posted to shortfinals on Sat Feb 09, 2013 at 09:53 PM PST.

Also republished by SciTech and Derbyshire and The Peak District.

EMAIL TO A FRIEND X
Your Email has been sent.
You must add at least one tag to this diary before publishing it.

Add keywords that describe this diary. Separate multiple keywords with commas.
Tagging tips - Search For Tags - Browse For Tags

?

More Tagging tips:

A tag is a way to search for this diary. If someone is searching for "Barack Obama," is this a diary they'd be trying to find?

Use a person's full name, without any title. Senator Obama may become President Obama, and Michelle Obama might run for office.

If your diary covers an election or elected official, use election tags, which are generally the state abbreviation followed by the office. CA-01 is the first district House seat. CA-Sen covers both senate races. NY-GOV covers the New York governor's race.

Tags do not compound: that is, "education reform" is a completely different tag from "education". A tag like "reform" alone is probably not meaningful.

Consider if one or more of these tags fits your diary: Civil Rights, Community, Congress, Culture, Economy, Education, Elections, Energy, Environment, Health Care, International, Labor, Law, Media, Meta, National Security, Science, Transportation, or White House. If your diary is specific to a state, consider adding the state (California, Texas, etc). Keep in mind, though, that there are many wonderful and important diaries that don't fit in any of these tags. Don't worry if yours doesn't.

You can add a private note to this diary when hotlisting it:
Are you sure you want to remove this diary from your hotlist?
Are you sure you want to remove your recommendation? You can only recommend a diary once, so you will not be able to re-recommend it afterwards.
Rescue this diary, and add a note:
Are you sure you want to remove this diary from Rescue?
Choose where to republish this diary. The diary will be added to the queue for that group. Publish it from the queue to make it appear.

You must be a member of a group to use this feature.

Add a quick update to your diary without changing the diary itself:
Are you sure you want to remove this diary?
(The diary will be removed from the site and returned to your drafts for further editing.)
(The diary will be removed.)
Are you sure you want to save these changes to the published diary?

Comment Preferences

Subscribe or Donate to support Daily Kos.

Click here for the mobile view of the site