Melody sales@mangawhaifocus.co.nz 021454814
Nadia n.lewis@xtra.co.nz 021677978
Reporting: Julia news@mangawhaifocus.co.nz 0274641673
 Accounts: Richard info@mangawhaifocus.co.nz 021678358



Gardening with Gael - Elderberry not just for the birds


One winter during a hideous bout of bronchitis a good friend sent me masses of elderberry products. This, she assured me, would make no end of difference. Elderberries  are an interesting plant and believing them to have all sorts of properties I bought one and planted it at the Block in one of the small terraces. Being deciduous, during the winter, among the weeds it looked like some dead stick. Box, eager to clear some ground ready for some more possum planting weed-eatered the straggly elderberry down to a stump.

I have since learnt that elderberries like a severe pruning so I shouldn’t have been surprised when the next spring it flourished leaving me concerned that it may be too big for its position. This year it is covered in elderberries (see photo). Clearing around the bush with the help of Barney the Block Dog I noticed big bunches which I promptly ate while Barney chewed on the lower branches. I told Mary, who was minding the cottages about them when I arrived back . “I am not sure you can eat them raw,” she said prompting me to Google all I could find out about them and hoping that I could eat them raw. They are not particularly sweet, with a mild flavour. I thought they would be nice sprinkled on muesli or with a fresh fruit salad.

Sometimes the Internet is a minefield of information and to sift through to try to find verifiable sources can be difficult. It would appear though that it is best to cook the berries and to certainly not eat the bark which can be toxic. Neither Barney or I have shown any adverse reaction – me to the fruit and fortunately Barney didn’t chew too much of the bark. 

There is more than one variety of elderberry and although they are partially self-fertile,  all the reading I have done suggests planting more than one variety will ensure cross pollination. Fruit is borne on the current year’s growth as well as on older wood and reaches full production after about  four years. They appear to be very tolerant of most conditions and the one at the Block is coping well with the drought. From what I have read my fear that it is in the wrong place may be well founded – over the years they become a sizable bush. They have a shallow fibrous root system so I will prune it back well this year and transplant it.

There are many suggestions that the elderberry has medicinal properties and although there are many studies I couldn’t find any substantiated research. They do, however make great wine and I found one recipe for an elderberry liqueur which sounded really easy, delicious and, according to the recipe keeps forever. The tree is very attractive and I will look out for some more during the autumn.



Elderberry liqueur 
Makes about 1 quart (4 cups)
Prep Time: 30 days 
1 pint fresh elderberries 
1 quart vodka
3 one-inch pieces of lemon rind, white pith removed
Put elderberries into a quart Mason jar and pour over the vodka. Add the lemon rind (make sure the rind has no white pith, as it is bitter.) Seal and put in a dark cupboard for at least a month, or up to 6 months.
The alcohol will extract flavor from the elderberries over time, so the longer you let it sit, the inkier it will get.
When it is the color you want – anything from a Pinot Noir color to downright black — pour the vodka through a strainer lined with cheesecloth into another jar and add sugar.
How much sugar? At least 1/4 cup, but to your taste; I go with 1/3 cup. Shake to combine and put back in the cupboard.
After a few days or weeks, the sugar will completely dissolve and the elderberry liqueur is ready to drink. It keeps forever.
- SOURCE: Hunt, Gather, Cook.
The Mangawhai Focus is the only 'Mangawhai' community Newspaper and is the paper of choice within the local area.

For more information on distribution and circulation please 
click here



Contact Us





facebook   twitter   174855-378


Sales: 021 454814
Editorial: 027 4641673
Office: 021 678357