I’ve been propagating and harvesting elderberry (Sambucas canadensis) for a few years now and took the opportunity to share how I make syrup and gummies with a home school class. Anytime food is involved I know that I’ll have their attention and no doubt the visual, tactile and taste based sensory experience would be remembered for a long time.
The berries are antioxidant rich, high in vitamin C and iron. At the peak of perfection the berries were cut on the stem, bagged and frozen until the moment before class. The kids used forks to carefully remove the ripe berries from the toxic stem so the berries could be cooked for consumption. Once we had our berries separated we were able to begin our syrup and gummies! The kids also enjoyed some elderberry juice (syrup and water) along with autumn olives and frozen fox grapes to learn more about the joys of autumn foraging.
Below are recipes that I used. Honey should not be given to babies. You are responsible for your own research and risk.
- Add 1 cup clean elderberries (no stems or discolored fruit)
- Add 1/3 cup water
- Bring to a boil and then simmer down for 30 minutes.
- Strain out juice for use and compost the berry pulp.
- Let elderberry juice cool and when warm add 1/3 cup local honey and mix on very low heat. *Heating up honey kills the nutrients so it’s added at the end.
- Take ½ cup Elderberry Syrup, 1 tablespoon of Agar Powder (Vegan) and Stir very well to dissolve. (you’ll need the tablespoon for the gummies to hold the right consistency – this is more than may be listed as the suggested use which creates a soft gelatin but not the firmer gummy we are after)
- Boil at a simmer for a full 5 minutes to activate the agar.
- Add a teaspoon of local honey or agave and stir well while the mix is warm.
- Use an eyedropper to quickly fill the molds for gummies. This recipe will make 100 gummies or 2 trays of 50.
- Place gummy tray in refrigerator to cool and set for approximately 20 minutes (or maybe outside in wintertime while you go cut elderberry to propagate).
David Alexander is author of the Buzz Into Action & Hop Into Action Science Curricula. He specializes in making nature accessible to people and wildlife. You can follow him at www.natureintoaction.com