What Do Elderberries Taste Like?


Members of the honeysuckle family, elderberry plants bloom in early to midsummer to provide a harvest from July through September in most parts of the U.S. Because fresh elderberries have a tart taste, they're more often cooked and used in jellies, jams, pies, wines, spirits, flavored waters, flavored vinegars and teas. You can use the fruit dried, fresh or frozen.

Varieties of Elderberry

  • Three main varieties of elderberry grow in North America. European elderberry (Sambucus nigra) is also known as black elder or common elder. American elderberry (Sambucus canadensis), also known as sweet elder or black elderberry, produces berries with a flavor slightly sweeter than those of European elder. The leaves, stems, bark and roots of the red-berried elder (Sambucus racemosa) are considered dangerous, as they contain cyanide-producing toxins. While the berries are deemed edible, the USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service warns that the berries of this elder may be toxic unless they are properly prepared.


  • Most people consider elderberries too bland, bitter or astringent to eat as fresh, raw berries, but the berries develop a far better flavor, sweet and juicy, when processed for use in food and drink, so you should wash and cook your berries for best use. American elderberry flowers are also edible.

Using Elderberries

  • Elderberry jam has a sweet-tart taste with earthy undertones. Elderberries add complexity and tannins to homemade wines, or you can use elderberries alone. The fruits mix well with other fruits in pies and other desserts, adding color and depth of flavor.


  • The difficult part of handling elderberries is separating the stem from the berry, as a waxy substance exudes from the stem. Freezing the berries then removing them from the stems may make the task easier. Wear old clothes when working with elderberries because they tend to stain.


  • Elderberry plants are easily confused with toxic water hemlock (Cicuta mexicana), which grows in the same areas. Do not touch water hemlock. Elderberry has leaves oppositely arranged, paired along the stem, while hemlock has alternate leaves. Elderberry stems of have white or light gray pith and emit a foul odor when crushed, while hemlock stems have hollow pith and purple stripes.

Related Searches


  • Photo Credit monica-photo/iStock/Getty Images
Promoted By Zergnet



You May Also Like

  • What Is a Wolfberry?

    Wolfberries are starting to become known in the natural health world. These little berries are also called the western snowberry or goji...

  • Is Elderberry Toxic?

    Elderberries are the beautiful fruit from bushes that tend to grow along streams and in low-lying fields across almost half of the...

  • How to Make Elderberry Wine

    Elderberry plants are shrubs or small trees in the Sambucus genus. Up to 30 species exist, but wine is usually made from...

  • How to Identify Elderberry

    Elderberry shrubs are sought after for both their berries and flowers. Everything from fairy and elf visitations to great wine, jam, good...

  • What Can I Substitute for Elderberry Liqueur?

    Elderberry liqueur is made from fermented elderberry juice. The berries grow on tall bushes and look somewhat like tiny reddish blueberries. It's...

Related Searches

Check It Out

How to Make a Vertical Clay Pot Garden

Is DIY in your DNA? Become part of our maker community.
Submit Your Work!