Hedgerow boughs are bent with hips, haws, sloes and berries. Positively dripping with nature’s bounty. Some say it’s indicative of a harsh winter waiting in the wings but it may be down to the preceding dry warm months of glorious sunshine. Either way I couldn’t resist helping myself to the shiny purple jewels hanging seductively from the corner of my garden. I considered making jam but elderberries, I read, are at their medicinal best when taken raw. They are a fantastic source of vitamins C and A. Pick only the fully blackened berries as unripe ones are very unpleasant and may make you ill. You will recognise the plant from its lovely cream blooms earlier in the year.
To make my elixir I gathered 300g of berries. I removed only the fully ripened berries from their stalks by combing my fingers through the heads and gave them a rinse under the tap. Then I placed them in a kilner jar with a dessert spoon of raw honey, poured over enough brandy to cover the berries and secured the lid. And that’s it. I’ll leave them to sit in a dark cool place for at least 4 weeks, preferrably 6 weeks if the household can fend off winter bugs for that long. When the brandy has extracted all that fruity goodness I’ll strain the liquid. Maybe I’ll add more honey, but it’s not really meant to be knocked back by the glassful. I plan on taking it a teaspoon at a time when there’s even a small hint of a sniffle. Its medicinal powers are so strong that I’m willing to tolerate the potentially toe-curlingly woeful taste. Small compensation for a clean bill of health!
Before you reach for the branded pharmaceutical fix make that short trip to nature’s medicine chest and gather some elderberries. You’ll be thankful for your boozy berry cure when the tickley throat and sniffy nose set in!