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9 Facts About Elderberry You Never Knew (Until Now)

Elderberry. The name conjures up images of medieval times when they were used by traditional healers to treat everything from diarrhea, to high blood sugars and even heart disease. Today, we have a better picture of the medicinal benefits of elderberry, and they're nowhere near what our ancestors wanted to believe. Still, elderberry is a popular flavor for jams, and because it contains vitamin C, it can also be said to contain beneficial antioxidants. In this post, we're going to look at some things you may not know about elderberries, including the fact that it makes a delicious natural soda.

9 Surprising Facts About Elderberry

Who knew there were so many things to know about elderberry? Certainly not us until we started researching this post. But now that we are properly enlightened we’d like to share some of the surprising facts we’ve learned about the humble elderberry.

1: Elderberry is essentially unchanged since the Stone Age

That might not seem like a big deal but it is. A lot of foods have mutated over the centuries including watermelon, which looks almost nothing like it did 300 years ago, and even chickens which looked quite different during the Stone Age when they were first being domesticated. Elderberry, however, is essentially unchanged since humans first started eating them in any quantity.

2: Unripe elderberry is an effective poison

The unripe fruit of the elderberry tree produces cyanide when metabolized. This fact alone probably accounts for why so much time elapsed between when humans first became aware of elderberries and when they began consuming them. For the record, you can neutralize the poisonous effects by simply cooking your unripe elderberries.

3: Elderberry is no miracle food

In the days when bleeding was still considered a sound medical practice, it was easy to believe what was being said about the fruit of the elderberry tree. These days we know different. While there are plenty of people who are still willing to state with a straight face that elderberries will cure everything from diabetes to heart disease, the science says otherwise. At best, there's a mild antioxidant effect. And while antioxidants are certainly a positive thing it doesn't mean elderberry is going to cure anyone's arthritis.

4: Some people eat fried elderberry leaves

We were surprised to discover this, but it turns out fried elderberry flower is actually pretty popular. One of the most common recipes for fried elderberry calls for creating a batter from flour, eggs, salt, pepper and water and then dipping the elderberry leaves into the batter before dropping them into hot oil to deep fry them. In this case, you'd better hope that elderberries can cure heart disease, because if you eat enough deep fried anything you run the risk of developing heart problems.

5: If you love birds, plant elderberry

Loads of people have feeders hanging from their back porch or the trees in their yard. It’s a great way to attract local birds and add a sense of vitality to your landscaping. But if you really love birds, why put out feeders? Why not just plant elderberry in your yard? Birds love elderberry and you won’t have to spend money and take time constantly filling bird feeders. Or, if you really love your feathered friends, offer them a combination of feeders and elderberry plants.

6: Elderberry natural soda is delicious

Elderberry can be used to make delicious jam, muffins and syrups so maybe it’s no surprise that elderberry soda is also delicious and refreshing. Our Rocky Mountain Evergreen Elderberry Soda is gluten-free, vegan and kosher and contains no GMOs. It’s one of our lightest, most thirst-quenching sodas and it owes its distinctive flavor profile to one of humankind’s most reliable fruity companions, the elderberry.

7: Elderberry blossoms are quite beautiful

In the past, people tended to think of elderberry for what they believed were its medicinal benefits. These days we mostly focus on it as a consumable. But what is rarely talked about are its fragrant and delicate blossoms which appear in the late spring. If you have elderberry bushes or trees in your yard you know of what we are speaking. Sitting on the patio surrounded by elderberry blooms smelling of sweet acacia and honey early in the morning is one of life's great pleasures.

8: There are many different varieties of elderberry

Elderberry is a many splendored thing. There are dozens of elderberry varieties including:

  • Beauty with its pink blossoms that smell of lemon
  • Black Lace with its dark purple foliage and flowers that remind one of Japanese maple
  • Adams 1 and 2 with their large fruit clusters
  • Variegated with its compelling green and white foliage
  • Scotia with its sweet, sweet berries from small bushes and
  • York that produces the largest of all elderberry fruit

9: Elderberry plants can live up to 100 years

The humble elderberry is a hardy plant with some of their kind known to have survived while continually producing fruit for as long as 100 years. Compare that to the average house plant that typically lives anywhere from 5 to 10 years, (although some certainly live longer). Perhaps counterintuitively the wild elderberry plant (as opposed to cultivated elderberry) is usually the longest-lived.

Conclusion

Elderberries have a relationship with humans that dates back to at least the Stone Age. Traditional healers believed in the ability of elderberry to address a plethora of common health problems. Today, we use it to create things like our delicious Rocky Mountain Elderberry natural soda.