Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Elderberry, here's a sign..

 Only am getting a few moments back at the house and trying to get done as much as possible! The last few days have been blustery, cold, windy.. cabin fever set in about 10 minutes after the rain began. The wind has been sending patio furniture flying, eradicated any chance to catch up on laundry, and making for some very misbehaved poultry.

 I may need a sign soon, if only to warn the drivers as they go down the road..

 "caution! Assless chaps and nude chick(ens)"

 Maybe a series of signs..

 "Slow chickens"
 "seriously, they aren't very bright"

 The guineas have handed many a rooster their tail when confined in the coop for more than 6 seconds past when "they" think they should be out. Hence the "assless" chaps. 

 Guineas get first dibs on everything, regardless if they like it or not. Apples, corn, and the occasional Sprite melon have been on the daily afternoon menu. I cut the apples up and throw them everywhere so everyone gets some. The guineas like it best when I hold a piece, so they can peck at it. Some days they have good aim, some days it is like wearing Lady Gaga's meat dress around a pack of wolves.

 I'd probably be less fond of them if they didn't come racing out to me every time I go outside. My minions... they are greedy, feathered, flighty and feeble minded.. and really darn cute. Up close, guineas remind me of Dr. Suess.. and a horror flick at the same time.

 Anyhow... elderberry is well into their season. I'm trying to grab up what I can, mainly to plant them later. The seeds can take up to 2 years to germinate. 

 The berries can be dried for use later in teas and such. Personally, I like them in jam best. Back when I could consume sweets.. we used to make a syrup from elderberry and black caps. It is lovely over pancakes... or mixed into 7-up or Sprite. Often we'd have cottage cheese with sliced canned pears and drizzled with the berry syrup.. or doused over ice cream. Oh man... I miss sugar.

 If you dry the berries, the seeds can be stored for over a decade. Elderberry usually start producing at about 3 to 4 years of age. The fruit sets on first year wood. It is an understory shrub, but one that exists more often along the edge of a forest, or even along streams. They can handle full on sun, but appreciate a bit of shade. 

 They are a shrub that defies juglone producers.. like black walnut. There are several cultivars.. and a native red elderberry (do not eat this one..) that is not edible. Most of the dark fruited wild ones seem related to European strains in this area of the Midwest. 

 While not a very long living shrub, the fruits are fairly rich in antioxidants. They have a history of several medicinal uses, but I like them for their taste. They were one of the things we would snack on as kids as we romped around outside.

 Hoping to get some more time soon. Hope you all are doing well.


  1. I took a few cuttings off our black elderberry this spring and all but one rooted up nicely. I just transplanted them into their perminent homes last week when it was cool out. Have you tried propagating them in this manner?

    Thanks for the info on seeds, there is an unusual elderberry variety that grows in the mountains that I found while hiking a few years back, I will have to borrow some seeds off it next time we are up there in the fall.

  2. We've never had Guiena hens though I'd like to . I see them from time to time, but have never had a chance to buy any. I wish I could magically change all my chickens to Guienas.Chickens are such a pain in the posterior.

  3. I wonder if I could grow elderberry here in North Florida....wish, wish.

  4. @ Mr. H..
    I have actually, but elder doesn't have quite the vigorous root system, so a lot of ours are from seed. Usually we get crazy lazy and just chuck a few handfuls into a pile of dirt, rake it a bit.. and wait to see what comes up. However, these borers are doing a huge number, as well as Japanese beetles and then there is some pesky fungus. This multi-whammy is why I am seeding into pots, which I can keep an eye on and protect until they get established.

  5. @ Arsenius..
    Oh.. I think it is all give and take. Guineas like to roam, and the only thing they like more than that is making noise. If you handle them much.. then they like to follow you and make noise. It's rather like being followed by your own group of hecklers.
    Having a chicken hatch some eggs out for ya may be an option. They have a strong sense of "home".. which makes adults more difficult.

  6. @ Stephen... yep.. they are in N. Florida. Native from Canada right down to FL. Some varieties do better than others (as in some cultivars produce better flowerheads and more berries.)

    Some around here pop off the flowerheads, dunk them in batter and fry them up. Others make wine from the blooms.

    Just caution on the elders with red berries.. it is a rare native, but also not one for consumption quite like the dark berry type.

    I'll take pictures and post them so you can see it better to help you ID them. Easiest time to locate them is when they are blooming in the summer as they are then much more obvious.

  7. I still have chicken and guinea envy :(

  8. ... they go well with honey...