Elderberries – Takes Me Back

Okay, these shrubs are huge.  When I think shrub, I imagine bushy, low to the ground, reachable… manageable even.  In contrast, the reality of my elderberry bushes are heading-to-the-sky enormous and this is only year three.  On the other hand, I have a huge amount of juicy, aubergine berries to go with my out-of-control shrubs.

With those berries, what will I make?  A perfectly balanced sweet and tart pie with a flaky, buttery crust?  Elderberry syrup for both our mile-high pancake stacks or our viral ailments during the winter months?  Gem-like elderberry jam or jelly for shockingly purple smoothies or homemade bread and butter?  Maybe all three given the amount of berries we have.

The tiny treasures that are elderberries pack a powerful punch in both flavor and health benefits.  My grandmother used to make pies and jams the recipes for which are both on the blog already.

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My Grandma in My Garden

Each year when we visited my grandparents for three summer weeks in their rural home in New York, we’d spend our time doing essentially nothing.  It wasn’t exciting, it wasn’t exhilarating and it wasn’t elucidating.  Sometimes it was boring.  The funny thing is, however, that now I look back on those days with a rosy, idyllic sense of dreamy time where the hours passed without incident from one card game to the next, to another trip out to the garden and back, to another game of fetch with Bridgett, their collie.

My grandma worried that we would get so bored that one year we would eventually resist coming.  I’m not sure why we worry as adults so much about the children in our lives being bored.  I know as I look back on my childhood memories, the softer, less thrilling moments are the ones I cherish most.  As I watch my own children, move in and out of boredom, what comes after bored is so interesting to observe.

“Mama, I’m bored.”

“Oh, excellent!  I can’t wait to see what comes after ‘bored.’  Whatever you discover, I know it will be terrific!”

I’m certain that this is one of the phrases that I give to my children which they promise to themselves they will NEVER repeat to their offspring.  We’ll see.

During one of my many childhood periods of boredom spend with my grandparents, we would don my grandpa’s old oxfords with the tails down to our knees and the sleeves rolled up to our wrists, armed with pails and some sort of muck boot.  We’d then tromp through the bushes to my grandma’s favorite haunts looking for whichever berry was in season – usually raspberries, blackberries, or my favorite, elderberries.  We would then trounce home, tired and sunburned and mouths watering for my grandma’s famous elderberry pie.

For the longest time I tried to recreate it with other berries, but eventually gave up the effort, resigning myself to reliving elderberry pie in my mind only.

Until this summer!  When the elderberry patch went into my garden!  It’s American Elderberry, Sambucus canadensis, and I should see my first pie next year.  My mom has always said that gardening skipped a generation and that my grandmother passed her green thumb on to me.  Thank you, Grandma, for the memories.  I’m so glad you are with me again in the garden.

Annie
Thinking of Cecile Hunt