Among the remedies I recommend storing up, elderberries are right up near the top. They are well known to help prevent colds and flu, especially being beneficial for flu viruses.
Where I live elderberries grow wild (and no one seems to want them or know how valuable they are). I recommend you keep your eyes open as you’re driving down country roads, especially near water during the late summer months. You will begin to see flowering trees with slightly drooping clusters of off-white blooms like these:
The cluster on the top is already beginning to form the berries, which will turn dark purple when ripe and have a whitish film over it (like the berries below) after a frost in the fall.
The branches with the berries on them are fairly easy to break off, but you may want to take some shears with you when you’re harvesting and plenty of containers to hold them all. We take plastic grocery bags to go to the harvest site and keep a box in the back of our car.
Make sure to pick only the dark purple/black ones, as the red ones are said to be toxic.
Here’s what I did with the box we gathered. I made elderberry syrup, frozen blocks, and extract/tonic.
For the syrup and frozen blocks, I first placed the berries, stems and all, in the freezer. I had read that this would make the berries easier to remove from the stems. It worked well, and I had my entourage help me pluck the berries (which they were happy to do!). After plucking them off, I then washed them thoroughly in a colander. Then I just covered with water in a saucepan, bringing them to a boil.
I cooked them until they were soft, and the whole mixture was very dark purple (almost black). Next came the very messy part! I pressed them through the strainer, but I got a lot of seeds through, since my strainer is not fine. I then used a screen-type strainer with cheese cloth layered in it to strain out the rest of the seeds. Everything that the berries came in contact with became dark purple – so beware!
I then canned 3 pints of this elderberry juice/syrup and filled 2 ice cube trays as well. After the ice cubes were frozen, I popped them out and sealed them in a freezer bag. These will be handy to add to hot tea in the winter to add flavor and immune-enhancing properties.
I also made an elderberry extract/tonic with vodka. This was more simple, as it didn’t require any cooking or straining. I simply plucked and washed the elderberries as above. Then I filled a quart jar halfway with elderberries, followed by vodka added to the top.
This mixture sat in a dark place for about a week until it was very dark in color. I then strained out the berries and added 1/3 cup sugar, shaking vigorously. I then returned it to the dark cupboard. Over the next couple days, I checked on it and shook it again as needed. It was ready for drinking after 2 weeks, but will last indefinitely without canning or refrigeration (as the vodka preserves it).
I plan to drink a small amount when feeling “under the weather.” In order to remove all or most of the vodka, it can be added to a hot drink as well.
Note: I have since found an easier way to produce the elderberry syrup without all the straining and mess, and I produced this video below to guide you through it.
If you don’t have access to elderberries or it’s the wrong time of year and you didn’t get any, you can purchase dried elderberries and make the syrup the same way. I recommend Starwest Botanicals for purchasing dried elderberries and all your herbal needs. You can also purchase already-made syrup from them as well.