Hartley Magazine

All the latest news, hints, tips and advice from our experts

Elder Power

Pick plenty of ripe berries

As individuals we need to take responsibility for our health and well-being. With the current pandemic still in full swing, it’s so important to stay well and safe.

Many of our modern medicines have botanical origins and many plants have provided powerful healing properties for centuries and indeed are still prescribed today by qualified medical herbalists.

Vaccine search

Currently it seems the whole world is in a race to find a vaccine for the COVID-19. We wait in limbo with the promise that something will be found that will protect us from this nasty virus. But what then? What about the next virus, the next pandemic?

Hedgerow help

Remove berries from stalks

I have been a vocal advocate for elder power for some time. I make my own concoction every autumn, brewing juicy ripe elder berries with spices into a cough medicine and anti flu remedy. Actually you can buy a version from some chemists, at a price. It normally lasts until Feb or March if I can make enough. Sadly this year we ran out just before the pandemic hit, I’d like to think had we had a reserve of this precious, powerful cordial, we might have fared better than we did. The hedgerows are dripping with these potent berries. Be sure to know exactly what you are picking and how to identify correctly, there are other poisonous berries ripening now too. And if you are superstitious, ask for permission before you harvest, for these trees are protected by woodland spirits who may object. Avoid trees growing on the roadside as the pollution from cars may taint the fruit.

Scientific approval

Boil with water and spices

Scientists have studied the power of elderberry compounds as an anti-flu treatment. Research from the University of Sydney reported in Science Daily stated that elderberry compounds could help minimize flu symptoms. The study showed that the common elderberry had a potent antiviral effect against the flu virus. And it’s not the only study that has shown elderberry compounds working better and faster against the flu.

Regular protection

It’s a precious, potent mixture, which I reserved for the days before a trip to London, attending a show, or just mingling with others on public transport or anywhere else. Of course now the playing field has changed; crowds and mass gatherings are banned, public transport a scary prospect and mingling with others an acquired taste. And yet, this year it seems even more vital to preserve the elder power, bottle it and store it for the looming winter and beyond.

Simple recipe

Bottled for winter use

It’s easy to make. You don’t need special tools, just trusses of berry bearing stems, large bowls and pans, sugar (though I believe you can make a vinegar based version) and spices galore. Strip the ripe berries from their stems (avoid any green ones) into a large pan. Cover them with water and add a handful of spices. I use ginger, chillies, cloves, cardamom and cinnamon. Bring to the boil gently and simmer for 15-20 minutes. It’s important to ‘cook’ the berries. Then mash, mash and mash again with a potato masher to release the juice. Then strain every last drop from the mixture, using a sieve or fine gauze muslin. Sometimes I leave them straining overnight. Add an equal quantity of sugar to the rich purple juice and bring back to a gentle boil. Bottle the hot liquid into sterilized bottles; add a clove or two to each before sealing the goodness inside. Allow to cool and store in a cool dark place before use. I find it keeps for 2-3 years if it lasts that long. You can make it into a tasty hot drink or take it like cough medicine by the spoonful.

Flower Power

Don’t overlook the wonder of the elder flowers. Like the berries these fragrant, pollen rich blooms can be made into a cordial for summer use, but leave some to be pollinated for berries in autumn to keep your cupboards full of your anti-flu concoction.