Elderberries A Flavor In Flavor


The tart flavor of Elderberries makes them perfect for use in jellies, jams, syrups, relishes,

chutneys, juices and alcoholic beverages. Elderberry jelly makes a delicious cake glaze. Perk up a vanilla cake by warming up elderberry jelly and glazing between layers and on the top of the cake.

Making syrup is also a popular use of elderberries. Not only is it delicious on pancakes, it can be used to make popsicles and top ice cream too.

Elderberry syrup is also used to make cocktails. Add it to gin or vodka and seltzer water, with other ingredients such as sugar, ginger, fresh basil or peppermint, and lemon or lime juice and zest.

The berries are sometimes used cosmetically, too — they yield a rich blue and purple dye that can be used to dye hair.


Elderberries have been held in esteem since ancient times — lauded by chroniclers from Ancient Greeks to Native Americans — and the internet is currently abuzz about elderberries. They have recently become Frontier Co-op’s most popular bulk product.

Elder belongs to the genus Sambucus. The woody weed found along farms in the central and eastern U.S. is S. canadensis, while S. nigra is the species native to much of Europe. (The native European plant is now naturalized in some parts of North America.)

The deciduous elder thrives in a wide variety of environments — including grasslands, roadsides, woods, ditches and railways. You probably see it often if you live east of the Rocky Mountains in the States.

Elder has light grey/brown bark that becomes darker and furrowed as the plant grows, and its stalked, divided leaves are opposite and compound. The leaves are dark green with three to nine leaflets, and they smell unpleasant. Elder flowers, on the other hand, are sweet-smelling. Cream colored, they grow in large corymbs (flat-topped groupings) and are pollinated by flies and other insects.

The wrinkled berries arrive in late summer and are dark purple to black. Birds love their fruity aroma and sweet/ sour fruity flavor. The berries are harvested in late fall and are usually dried on the umbel to prevent damage.


Our elderberries come from our Well Earth* partner in Bulgaria who supplies a number of herbs that are grown on small farms or responsibly wildcrafted. Our elderberry sourcing is a great example of the mutually beneficial partnerships we build with our suppliers.

We work closely with our Bulgarian partner and our personal, long-term relationship with them has enabled us to improve quality and increase the availability of organic elderberry.

We recently helped fund their purchase of a color sorter to help them meet the skyrocketing demand for elderberries. The color sorter greatly increased our supplier’s production capacity and provided us with better quality elderberries of more consistent size and vibrant color.

*Well Earth is Frontier Co-op’s sustainable sourcing program to find and develop ethical suppliers of high-quality botanical products from around the world. We’re committed to supporting small farmers who share our values of sustainable agriculture and fair business practices — here in Bulgaria and around the world. We provide grants to Well Earth partners for training and improvements in their operations. And, with the guidance of our partners, we fund projects to improve life in the communities where our products are grown.