Fall means a cooler and wetter season in the Pacific Northwest. It’s a gorgeous time of year and it’s also perfect weather for gathering wild elderberries. We harvest up in the mountains and we turn it into a family-and-friend occasion so it’s always a really good time! (Bonus: we also gather pure, mountain spring water at the top!) I’m going to share all about how to use elderberries and give you a DIY recipe to make your own! + an option for you to buy if that’s your cup of tea.
And let me tell you, setting aside a day to go elderberry hunting is well worth it!
Elderberries are rich in antioxidants and they are immune stimulants. That means that elderberries can support your immune health and your body’s immune defenses to stay healthy. In fact, their antiviral activity is so high that some studies have indicated elderberry extract can help to ease flu symptoms! Yes, please! More on boosting your immune system here.
Each year we go out foraging in the fall when the berries get that white coat on them. This is when they’re ripe. You can find them mountain sides, in the forest or even on the side of country roads. We’ve found them just about everywhere in the PNW. Just make sure you aren’t picking near county managed roads as they are paid to spray the sides of the road. Woohoo. Stick to as far out as you can!
This year, some of our sweet friends invited us to their secret spot and while we didn’t hit the jackpot, we got plenty for the year. It’s really hit or miss when you’re foraging so make sure you don’t get disappointed when you don’t stumble upon them right away.
How to Use Elderberries + some juicy information about them:
Elderberries are small dark berries that grow in bunches on (duh) elderberry shrubs. These lovely shrubs love to be near moist environments, such as rivers or shaded streams, and can be found all around Eastern Washington and Northern Idaho. In addition, they are native in many other states across the US. Check with your local Extension Office to see if they grow in your area and how to identify. They ripen in the middle of summer and into the fall.
While hunting, look for a red-hued stem, oval leaves with pointed tips and berry clusters. There are many varieties; you want deep blue berries with a frosted look. But be careful: Hercules’ Club, which is poisonous, looks similar. Be sure to avoid berries with thorny stems.
And keep in mind most elderberries must be cooked, as they contain small amounts of toxic chemical when raw. Tuck them into baked treats or make them into jam. DO NOT eat them raw!
This elderberry extract can be used throughout the year, especially in the fall months. Here is the gadget I use to make the juice, I am not a gadget person but I highly recommend this one if you are preserving!!
If you’ve got no time for making extracts:
It’s okay, I got you! Organic Olivia makes an Elderberry Elixir that is amazing and easy to take through the fall months. If you want to make your own BUT you don’t have wild elderberries growing in your region, Mountain Rose Herbs sells bulk, dried elderberries that can be used in place of fresh. Instead of juicing them, simmer them in filtered water for 30 min before adding honey.
Whatever you do, buying or making, let it be fun and get the kids involved! We even stopped at a local spring on the way down the mountain to fill up our jugs with fresh water!
A Note for Those With Autoimmune Issues:
Potent elderberry extract is actually an immune simulator so if you have an overactive immune system, you wouldn’t want to have this. It might cause more problems and flare your symptoms.
What to do? Heal the root cause of the autoimmune issue so you CAN enjoy elderberry extract. This is exactly what I teach in my course, Bare Naked Hormones and also in my ebook, Wild Woman’s Hormones. Both detail exactly what I did to heal my own autoimmune diseases and give you the tools to heal yourself.