As the holiday season nears an end and we approach the start of a new school year, it is an excellent time to consider boosting our immunity ahead of the winter months.
In nature’s wisdom, plants grow at the time of year when we need them.
Sharing their virtues for our health and wellbeing in order to support our body through the challenges different seasons bring.
Along the hedgerows you can’t help but notice the bulging bunches of elderberries hanging from the tree, ripening from green to purple.
As natural dye fanatics we loved to discover that the Romans used these berries as a natural hair dye, boiled in wine to make the hair black.
Certainly, it provides an initial bright purple dye on fabrics although being fugitive the colour won’t stay bright for long so enjoy the beauty while it lasts!
Like the bark of the elder tree the berries can have a purging effect on the bowels but their most common use is for our immune system.
These magic clusters our full of Vitamin C and antioxidants something we need most to fend off infection and secure optimum iron absorption. One cup of elderberries contains about 50 mg of Vitamin C with the recommended daily amount being 75mg for women and 90g for men.
There are numerous ways to enjoy elderberries such a drying the berries to make a tea, wine, making them into a jam with other hedgerow favourites like blackberry and hawthorn or adding them to a crumble.
Our favourite is as a syrup which is made from simmering berries and a sugar until it gets to a thick consistency. Whilst you can make it with sugar I prefer to make it with honey so you get the added anti-bacterial immune boosting properties of local honey. If you have a sore throat the consistency means it coats the throat nicely too. Make sure not to boil the honey and render it less potent.
500g of juicy plump destalked elderberries
400g of sugar or honey
1 lemon juiced
You might like to add 3cm of freshly sliced ginger, a cinnamon stick or a star anise if you prefer a depth of flavour.
Place the berries into a saucepan and cover with about 1cm water. Add any spices you desire.
Bring to the boil, then turn down the heat and simmer gently for 15-20 mins until the berries have softened into a liquid.
Strain the mixture through a fine sieve
Measure the liquid and for every 500ml of liquid add 400g of sweetener.
Tip the sweetener and the liquid back into a pan and simmer for 5-10 minutes.
Leave to cool and bottle in sterilised jars.
This will keep for about 12 weeks in the fridge or freeze cubes in trays and use as you need until next season!