The Apothecary Garden: Elderberry, The Wise Elder of Plants



It is snowing outside, the winter solstice and cold moon passed. The light is returning now, oh so slowly at first. There are many plants that can help us move joyfully through the dark winter time, supported by a vibrant immune system that wards off cold and flu alike.

Black elder (Sambucus nigra) is a wonderful ally in your herbal winter apothecary and a beautiful plant in your garden, blessing you with potent medicine and abundant wildlife that is attracted by her blossoms and fruit.

The Elder in your Garden

You will need a big open sunny spot in your garden that is well irrigated and mulched with a thick layer of wood chips – elder likes wet feet. So much that the Elder Mother grows wild most abundantly in wetlands and along creeks where the big shrub helps to dry the soil after flooding. Peppermint and spearmint are nice companion plants, covering and shading the soil in between and providing aromatic cooling mint teas in the summer.

Elderflower Lemonade

The fragrant umbels of tiny cream colored elder blossoms in early summer attract many butterflies and make a wonderful lemonade. Simply add a few flower heads to a home made lemonade with fresh lemon and honey or maple syrup. A tea from dried elderflower can help relieve a fever by opening the pores of the skin and inducing sweating.

Gathering elderberries in the fall can be a race with birds who enjoy the fruit just as much as we do. Daily harvests are best while the berries ripen over the course of a few weeks.

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