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Be Sure to Cook Ripe Elderberries Before Eating

Making It Grow! Minute logo

  Hello Gardeners, I’m Amanda McNulty with Clemson Extension and Making It Grow. In the history plant pharmaceuticals, elderberry was an essential medicine across Europe, into Russia, the Scandinavian countries, and among the Native Americans of North America. The traditional uses included numerous respiratory ailments, especially congestion and allergies, digestive problems – especially if a laxative was needed, headaches, fever reduction, and a host of others. It turns out that the leaves and stems and unripe fruits contain pre-cyanide compounds and should never be used or consumed at all. However, the flowers are free of harmful substances, and can be used to infuse liquids and as additions to fritter batter. Once the berries are ripe, they can be consumed but even the ripe berries may contain small amounts of potentially harmful compounds, and they should be heated before they are used to make wine or jelly or in a delicious pie.

Amanda McNulty is a Clemson University Extension Horticulture agent and the host of South Carolina ETV’s Making It Grow! gardening program. She studied horticulture at Clemson University as a non-traditional student. “I’m so fortunate that my early attempts at getting a degree got side tracked as I’m a lot better at getting dirty in the garden than practicing diplomacy!” McNulty also studied at South Carolina State University and earned a graduate degree in teaching there.