Monday, September 21, 2009

Elderberry Season

The neighbor called. The one who just Bic shaved his head to raise money for a co-worker with cancer. His elderberry bush was loaded this year. Would we be interested in relieving it?

Of course we would.

Briz climbed the ladder with the "cougar knife" he carries everywhere, and I stood at the base with a box. As the branches fell, I raced around and held my box at just the right spot.

Truth of the matter is that our storage room is full of Elderberry Jelly. But old habits die hard and the elderberry/chokecherry ritual is a part of our marriage, an annual ritual of our coupleness that makes us well. . . US.

Early on, when we were both in school, and both working to put a roof over our heads, I cut corners every place I could. I knocked on the door of an unknown elderly woman and asked to pick her unused crab apples for jelly. While camping, I found elderberries then chokecherries. So each weekend, our hikes had an added purpose, to find and harvest wild berries.

My grandma taught me how to make syrup and jelly. She never used juicers or food processors, so she shared the old fashioned method of boiling the berries, stems and all, then straining them through cheesecloth.

I suppose I could afford a juicer now. But, it would take away from the secret satisfaction I feel recreating a pioneer art.

I decide on syrup this year instead of jelly. For kicks, I google elderberry syrup. Shockingly, hundreds of health sites popped up touting elderberries as the "medicine cabinet for the poor." Supposedly it is one of the best natural cures for the flu, common cold, sore throat, asthma, and sinusitis. It also, they say, makes a great dye. Well, I could have told you that. My dishcloths and clothing will testify of a lovely purple color that DOES NOT FADE!

Well. Now my satisfaction is complete. I can tell myself besides stocking a fourth shelf with jelly/syrup, I am providing for my families medical needs. No. Don't tell me that it takes a strong concentrate for medicinal purposes. I also don't want to hear that the down sides of sugar counteract the elderberries purported benefits.

I briefly fantasize a terrible flu epidemic where all medications have vanished off the shelves. I wander through the neighborhood with my basket of elderberry syrup and jelly, a modern Florence Nightingale, saving lives where ever I go.

I am going to feel clever each time we eat this.

The house is filled with the heated bittersweet smell of cooked elderberries. It is such a comforting scent. It speaks to me of couple teamwork, of ancestors, service to my family. AND, it tastes FABULOUS!!!!


  1. How romantically you tell the story.

  2. My cupboards could use a little of that lovin!

  3. I Agree with julie, it's Always so enjoyable to read your stories! :) I always find myself, laughing or crying, lol. ;)