How often do we come across something which is both tasty and nutritious with tons of health benefits? That’s right, such a thing does exist and it’s no other than the elderberry.
On one hand, the elderberries have the miraculous property of being an immune booster which can dramatically decrease the risk of contracting diseases like the cold and flu; on the other, they are extensively used in cooking for making pies, wines, juices, jams, etc.
Now, what does elderberry taste like? Well, continue reading to know everything about elderberry. We will discuss elderberry history, what does it taste, its health benefits, and how to make delicious and healthy recipes using elderberry.
Table of Content
What exactly is Elderberry?
The ‘Elderberry’ or ‘Elder’ are plant species of the genus Sambucus in the Adoxaceae family. There are many varieties of elderberry, although the most frequent are the European elderberry (Sambucus nigra) and the American elderberry (Sambucus canadensis).
They comprise small trees and shrubs with a maximum height of around 30 feet although most varieties are 15 feet on average. The tree’s bark contains numerous furrows lengthwise and changes color from light grey to coarse grey as the tree ages.
Elderberry plants contain leaves which are pinnately compound, that is, there are around 5-7 leaflets in each leaf. Each leaflet is around 5–12 cm long and 3–5 cm broad, with a serrated margin.
The elder flowers bloom in clusters during the spring. These flowers have a pleasant sweet aroma and are roughly disc-shaped and creamy white having a diameter of 5–6 mm with five petals
The fruits of the elder, the ‘elderberries’, small bluish black to purple orbs of 3–5 mm diameter. The white flowers give rise to green fruits which ripen to assume their mature color.
The coloration is due to the presence of a pigment called anthocyanin. Interestingly enough, elderberries are used as a natural color additive in Japan because of the presence of this pigment.
History of the use of Elderberry
The use of elderberries can be dated back thousands of years ago owing to the vast number of legends about them in the then Europe.
Elderberries were cultivated as far as 2000 BC back by the Swiss people as their seeds were found in the Neolithic Pole dwellings in Switzerland.
It is easy to understand why such a fruit with astounding therapeutic benefits would be revered by the people of ancient times.
The pioneer of medical science, Hippocrates, dubbed as the father of medicine, also realized the importance of the elderberry to the point he had one plant in his own garden and referred it to as the ‘medicine chest’. The early native American tribes as well as the inhabitants of Africa, Asia also used this medicinal plant frequently.
Interestingly enough, the word ‘Elder’ doesn’t relate in any way to the word we use now, rather, its origin is from the Anglo-Saxon word aeld or ellarn which meant to kindle or fire because back in those days, these plants’ stems could be hollowed and be used for blowing out fire.
The scientific name Sabcucum comes from the Greek word Sambuca which meant “sackbut”, a stringed instrument much like a small hand harp or lyre.
What Does Elderberry Taste Like?
Now it’s time to answer today’s main question, how elderberries taste like. The taste of raw elderberries can best be described as tart and bitter. They aren’t as sweet as the other berries like blackberry, raspberry and because of these, they are considered by many to be too bland.
Another reason why raw berry tastes bland is that it is mostly water (around 83%) The elderberry also has hints of a mineral like earthy taste. This taste, however, doesn’t diminish the overall flavor, rather adds more heaviness to the flavor making it all the better.
The texture of elderberries is much like that of grapes, as both are high in water content. Thus, they are mostly translucent jelly-like with a thin sort of berry-skin as the outside cover. There are also numerous seeds, roughly the size of capsicum seeds.
However, they lack any actual flavor, rather they provide the sort of a crunchy texture in the whole eating experience.
But it should be mentioned here that some parts of the elderberry plant is poisonous. The poison that is present is called cyanogenic glycoside sambunigrin. This compound reacts with water (which the human body mostly is made of) to form the all too familiar deadly poison shown in movies, hydrogen cyanide.
Even small amounts of this gas can cause severe damage to the cells’ oxygen utilizing capacity and thus is very fatal. There have been instances of severe poisoning in the form of gastrointestinal disorders, like diarrhea and vomiting along with neurological symptoms and abdominal cramps.
The good news is that this poison isn’t present in all parts of the plant, rather the leaves, bark, root, and unripe fruits. Thus, eating raw shouldn’t be considered an option when it comes to elderberries.
Eating raw elderberry, with the added risk of poisoning, doesn’t sound like bliss for the taste buds, but cooked elderberry is a completely different story. When cooked and used in recipes, elderberries taste so much better with so much more flavor than most consider that elderberries should never be eaten raw.
As because the water is removed due to the cooking process, the flavor of the berry is concentrated bringing out a sweetness that can never be tasted in raw elderberries.
In processed food or in recipes, the true taste of elderberry comes out. That being said, let’s take a look some of the tasty dishes containing this key ingredient:
One of the most common uses of elderberry is in making jams. Elderberry jam itself is delicious, but it reaches a whole new level when combined with other sweet fruits like apple, pear, and other berries.
Since the elderberry itself doesn’t have much of a dominating flavor, it can be incorporated with other sweet fruits to create a perfect harmony of flavors.
Elderberry Syrup and Juice
Elderberry syrup has been the most used form of elderberry as cough remedies since long before. This syrup not only cures common health problems, but also act as a heavenly addition to the flavor of other foods like ice cream, waffles, pancakes, tea, etc.
Elderberry juice which is basically the diluted form of the syrup, too can be made very easily which serves as a refreshing summer time drink all the while having many beneficial effects on the body.
Elderberry pie is a classic nostalgic dish which can easily be the perfect harmony between the mouth-watering taste of a pie and the uncountable health benefits that accompany the dish.
Much like blueberry and raspberry muffins, elderberry muffins too, are a treat when added with a little bit of honey to add to the taste of the berry.
Elderberry wine is quite popular for its wine-making. The reason is that elderberry, in and of itself doesn’t have much of an overpowering flavor or sweetness as compared to the traditional red wine. The tart bittersweet flavor the elderberry makes it suitable for this purpose.
While it may be difficult and somewhat unconventional, elderflower juice is certainly a treat for anyone who is willing to try. They are made with the flowerheads when the buds have just opened and started to bloom. As for the taste, it has a heavenly aroma and a sweet taste which melts the palate.
Due to their alluring therapeutic effects of elderberries, they are now found in many commercial products like juice, concentrate, jelly, preserves, sauce, jam, yogurt, ice cream, fudge, gummies, lozenges and colorant which have high demand because of their remedial properties with the added bittersweet flavor.
Since these products also contain a high quantity of concentrated sugar, these mainly have a pleasant sweet taste with a hint of tang bitterness added by the elderberry.
Nutritional Aspect of Elderberry
According to the data provided by the USDA, 1 cup of elderberry contains the following:
- Calories: 106
- Fat: 0.7g
- Sodium: 9mg
- Carbohydrates: 27g
- Fiber: 10g
- Sugars: 0g
- Protein: 1g
- Vitamin A: 870 IU
- Vitamin C: 52.2 mg
- Calcium: 55.1 mg
- Iron: 2.3 mg
We can see that elderberry contains 27 grams of carbohydrate per cup which is only 10% of the total recommended daily intake of a normal adult.
However, most of the carbohydrate is the in form of fibers which are complex carbohydrates.
These aren’t digested rapidly and thus can attenuate a spike in blood sugar and hence have no harmful effect on the glucose profile 1 cup of elderberry contains 42% of the total daily requirement of dietary fibers.
As expected from a fruit like elderberry, the fat content is negligible, only 0.7 grams. Thus, you won’t have to worry about how much elderberries you’re eating!
Although elderberry doesn’t contain any protein, it more than makes up for that by the high levels of beta carotene, an antecedent molecule of vitamin A as well as calcium and vitamin C. Vitamin A helps in maintaining the integrity of the skin, fights off inflammation and most importantly, helps in vision in dim light.
The vitamin C helps in tissue repair as well as formation of collagen, a major structural protein of the body. The high iron content also ensures that the consumer will be protected from the effects of iron deficiency which is manifested in the form of anemia.
Elderberry Health benefits
The health benefits of the elderberry are too many to count. It has been used as a medicinal plant by the people of old times for a good reason. They are packed with essential nutrients as well as various other substances with curative effects in various diseases.
Cold and Flu remedy
The common cold or flu is a viral infection which normally takes around a week or two to subside on its own. Even if it goes away on its own, having fever, sneezes and congested sinuses for those days is a torment.
In a study done by Z Zakay-Rones in 2004 concluded that elderberry has potent antiviral properties and patients who received 15 ml of elderberry syrup four times a day had relief of symptoms as far as 4 days earlier in comparison to those who didn’t receive the syrup.
Also, rescue medications were less frequently used and the symptoms too were less severe among those who received the syrup.
Thus, elderberry has been scientifically proven to be a useful, efficient, safe and cost-effective treatment for influenza.
Good for your skin!
Elderberry extract has also been shown to have health benefits for the skin. This stems from the fact that elderberry fruit contains a group of compounds called flavonoids which have potent anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties.
Since inflammation and free radical mediated injury are important in the formation of acne, elderberries can actually protect the skin’s cells from the free radicals (because of antioxidants) and thus prevent acne formation.
The American Nutrition Association also says that elderberry face wash can soothe the skin and delay the formation of wrinkles and age spots.
Boosts your immunity!
During this coronavirus pandemic, it is more important than ever to strengthen our immune system to its maximum potential, because as of yet, there has been no perfect sure-shot cure for this deadly virus.
Only a healthy immune system can ensure a good fighting chance against the coronavirus. And our multi talented healer, the elderberry, is perfect for the job. It helps by increasing the levels of cytokines in our blood which are important parts of our defense against any pathogens or infection.
Thus, having some elderberry syrup during these times will go a long way to attenuating the adverse effects, if unluckily, you contract the deadly virus.
Protects your heart and brain!
As we mentioned earlier, elderberry is rich in flavonoids which have potent anti-inflammatory effects and it turns out that due to this effect, elderberry is cardioprotective. But these benefits aren’t restricted to the heart, but also extend to the brain!
The precise causes and mechanisms involved in brain damage and other chronic brain diseases still haven’t been understood as well as the other organs of the body.
Thus, it is all the more important to take all the preventive measures possible against these neurodegenerative diseases and elderberry can help with that by reducing oxidation and inflammation mediated damage of the brain tissue which underlies most of these disorders.
Reduces the risk of chronic disease
Elderberry helps prevent the incidence of various chronic diseases which burden our present society more than ever. The protective vitamin of the body, vitamin C, is the body’s most abundant antioxidant.
It is known as the healing vitamin because it helps in protecting the body against free radical and oxidative stress mediated injury. Thus, it can help in reducing the risk of various chronic diseases.
Aside from these, elderberry also has beneficial effects for those with hypertension and iron deficiency anemia.
Other positive effects too!
As mentioned earlier, elderberry has anthocyanin which gives it the deep blue to purple color. This pigment itself has also been implicated in many studies as having various beneficial health impacts. Elderberry plays a role in reducing the risk of cancer, reducing fatigue, constipation, help in weight loss, pain relief, headache, fever, kidney problems, stress, etc.
To sum it all up, elderberry truly is such a fruit which proves that something with innumerable health benefits can be so delectable for the palate.
The perfect combination of the tart and sweet taste when cooked properly is definitely something which enhances the flavor of every dish it touches.
Aside from this, the potent health effects of elderberry are something very few medicinal herbs or plants can match. Thus, it should be a no-brainer when considering elderberries as a part of the regular diet.
The FAQs About Elderberry Taste
Does elderberry taste bad?
Raw elderberry isn’t that sweet and has sort of a tart and bittersweet flavor, though it is mostly bland. However, when cooked or processed, it has a bright flavor with the perfect harmony of bitter and sweet.
Does elderberry taste like licorice?
Elderberry does not taste like licorice. It has a more bitter and a tart flavor than licorice.
What are the side effects of elderberry?
Side effects of elderberry include gastrointestinal discomfort like nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, some numbness or dizziness.
Can you eat raw elderberries?
Raw elderberries are best to be avoided because of the risk of poisoning but because ripe fruits don’t contain any poison, they can be consumed.
However, since they taste bland and don’t compare up to the delicious flavor of cooked elderberries, there really isn’t any reason to eat them raw.
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Happy Healthy Living!