In Italy (especially in Piedmont), Germany and Austria, the umbels (flowers resembling umbrellas) of the elderberry are batter coated, fried and then served as a dessert fritter with a sugar and cinnamon topping, known as “Hollerküchel”.
Our sweet, funny longtime friend Mary Guffy lived robustly, both mentally and physically, to her 94th birthday. She taught me about elderberry flowers for summer fritters and stories of how she learned from her mother to make them as a girl.
And I believe it! Mary was sharp as a tack well into her mid 90s!
Elderberries (Sambucus) have been a powerful folk remedy for centuries in North America, Europe, Western Asia, and North Africa, so the medicinal benefits of elderberries are being investigated and rediscovered. Elderberry is used for its antioxidant activity, to lower cholesterol, to improve vision, to boost the immune system, to improve heart health and for coughs, colds, flu, bacterial and viral infections and tonsillitis.
Elderberry Flower Fritters:
- 1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour (or flour of your choice)
- 2 eggs
- 1/2 cup milk (or coconut milk)
- 1/2 tsp. sea salt
- 1/2 tsp. cinnamon, optional
- 12-16 Elderberry blossoms with stems, washed and patted dry (you can 2 cups substitute thinly sliced apple wedges or diced apple )
- oil for frying – I use coconut oil in a high-sided sauce pan
- confectioner’s sugar for dusting, optional
With a whisk, mix the flour, eggs, cinnamon, salt, and milk into a thin pancake batter and heat your oil to a medium-high heat.
This recipe is pretty amusing. Your hot oil is waiting on the stove. You’ve whipped up a thin batter and your elderflower heads are at the ready to be dipped. You dunk the first head into the batter, and it clumps together into a wet-mop sort of a thing. Oh, no, you fret! Is this really going to work? You gently shake off the excess batter and lower the head into the hot oil. Then comes the show: dip it straight down, sizzle for a bit until golden brown and this beautiful lacy fried-thing appears. If you have enough oil (1/4″?), the flower head that had clumped together in the batter will spread back to life in the hot oil. Whoa! So cool!
Elderflower fritters are a fun way to eat wild right from your yard!
The elderberry plant flowers in middle of summer, and berries ripen in late August and early September. If you want to plant your own, pick a place they can have room top spread out, because they can get quite large (plant 6-8′ apart).
If you are wanting to grow these important berries at your own place, plan on getting one each of two varieties (Nova and York) since they don’t self-pollinate. You can get them from Gurney Nursery here and from Edible Landscape (under Shrubs) here.
Growing Elderberries and Making Tincture
Elderberry bushes are stunning when in bloom and bearing fruit. The berries you don’t pick attract mockingbirds, gray catbirds, bluebirds, cedar waxwing, and northern orioles all fall and winter.
Read a bit on foraging elder flowers and berries here.
You may also want to try your hand at making elderberry tincture or syrup. If you do, you can forget the flu (our experience if taken at first symptoms)!
Reasonably priced dried elderberries, available organically, can be found here.
Disclaimer: I am not a doctor, and do not share this as medical advice; it is something that has been practiced for hundreds of years and that our family does. Both Pliny the Elder and Hippocrates mentioned and recommended elderberry as a medicinal herb in their writings.
If you have any alternative thoughts on how to use elder flowers, then I’d love to hear them.
For other edible, wild, free food, check out The Joys Of Foraging!
“All that man needs for health and healing has been provided by God in nature, the challenge of science is to find it.” ~Paracelsus (1493-1541)
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