Notes from Windward: #69


Harvesting Elderberries

using GPS to track down
the elusive elderberry


     This spring I invested in a GPS unit so I could record the locations of elderberry trees. Last year I discovered that I could spot the trees in the spring when they were in bloom but had difficulty finding the tree again once the fruit was ripe in September.

     While traveling up and down the gorge earlier this year, I would spend a few minutes at each cluster of trees logging in the data so I could find the trees come harvest time. It worked. Sarah, Tiffany, and I were able to drive right to the trees and harvest.

     We got our clippers and snipped bunches of fruit off the tree and placed them in 5-gallon buckets. Since we live quite a distance from town we combine projects and errands in order to conserve fuel when we do head for town. We harvested until we had ten gallons of berries. That took 15 - 20 minutes, and then we were on our way again.

Tiffany and Opalyn harvesting elderberries

     After returning home, I reviewed several web sites that offered helpful information on how to harvest elderberries and remove the stems; here's one that provided options on how to de-stem the fruit. I elected to leisurely tease the fruit off the stems with a wide-toothed comb while enjoying a movie.

teasing the berries away from the stems

     I found it easier and more productive to tease off a small number of berries instead of trying to rake off too many berries at once. The fruit gets damaged and stems end up breaking off as well.

      Next time I harvest, I plan to dry and freeze some berries before de-stemming to find out if that makes the process quicker or easier.

     I netted three gallons of fruit weighing in at about 16 pounds once the stems were removed. It took about 6 hours all told to remove the stems and wash the fruit.

elderberries ready for processing

     I put about one gallons of berries in the freezer, one gallon went in the dehydrator, and the third gallon went into a pot to juice. The dehydrated gallon of berries weighed just over five pounds wet and about one pound dry.

     I also plan to use the elderberry juice to make mead, but that's a tale for another time :-)

Notes From Windward - Index - Vol. 69