It is the last frontier of taste: from aperitifs to beer to fruity waters to yogurt to jams, it can be found everywhere. Where does this trend come from? Is it just a matter of flavor or does it also provide nutritional benefits?
It is among the lesser known berries, but in terms of antioxidants it has nothing to envy to the most famous blueberries, blackberries, raspberries and currants. In fact, the elderberry is rapidly climbing the rankings of consumer satisfaction, also thanks to the increasingly rich offer of products based on this plant.
A healthy fashion
In the summer it was the trendiest aperitif in Austria and South Tyrol: we are talking about Hugo , the spritz made with elder flowers. A slightly alcoholic drink , originally from Alto Adige and then spread to Triveneto, Austria, Switzerland and Germany, based on prosecco, elderflower syrup, seltzer (or sparkling water) and mint leaves.
The food industry has also become aware of the elderberry and on the market you can find yoghurt, jams and juices, drinks and even beers flavored with wild shrub. The Recoaro brand did not miss the opportunity and created the “Hugorino mix" cocktail, based on gingerino with the addition of still white wine and elderflower syrup.
Even a multinational like Coca Cola has realized the potential of elderberry and last year launched a Fanta mixing the taste of lemon with that of elderflower, obtaining a fresh and thirst-quenching drink.
Around the same time, the well-known beverage brand Tassoni created Fior di Sambuco : a carbonated soft drink with elderflower extract, an infusion with a floral and fruity aroma reminiscent of Muscat. Distilled lemon peels complete the fragrance bringing the typical fresh and sparkling note.
The well-known Italian beer brand Angelo Poretti has decided to connote one of its beers with elderberry: the 7 Luppoli Unfiltrata La Fiorita, flavored with a bouquet of seven different types of hops and characterized by a note of elderflower. Perfect to accompany the fresh flavors of spring, such as those of savory pies with vegetables, fresh cheeses and vanilla-based spoon desserts.
Then there is the so-called “ spumante dei poor ", a sort of slightly sparkling elderberry cider, which is obtained from the fermentation of the flowers. It has a white color and a sweet and slightly acid aroma. The alcoholic note is barely hinted at.
The properties of the elderberry
Berries are especially famous for their polyphenol content, which varies from species to species and is generally between 30 and 2000 mg / 100 g. The highest values are found in elderberry, raspberry and black currant. Among the biological activities attributed to them, one of the main and undoubtedly most studied is the antioxidant one.
Elderberries contain 80% water, carbohydrates, proteins, fibers, various mineral salts and vitamins A, C and some vitamins of the B complex. Above all, it contains large quantities of Sambucina, an alkaloid with diaphoretic and anti-inflammatory properties. In popular tradition, elderberry is considered a “natural aspirin" due to the sweat effect that the flowers cause and is used to prepare herbal teas against colds, flu and rheumatism. In addition to its ability to reduce inflammation of the respiratory system, elderberry has diuretic and also purifying properties for the liver and kidneys.
Its consumption is not recommended only in case of intolerance to one or more compounds present in the plant. In case of pregnancy or breastfeeding consult a doctor and pay attention to the collection: it can be mistaken for some poisonous plants.
You use them in the kitchen
From the food point of view, fresh flowers are used to make sweet and savory pancakes, omelettes, sparkling drinks, sorbets; in biscuits and various sweets (eg in the "pan meiin", a typical Milanese dessert), to flavor drinks and liqueurs, to preserve the scent of apples, etc ...
The dried flowers, mixed with the scent of sage, give the white wine the aroma of muscat. In some places, flowers dried in the shade are used, layered and alternated in boxes with apples, to preserve them for a long time; they are said to give them a delicate pineapple aroma.
Elderberry lends itself well to some home preparations, such as elderberry jam . The ripe grapes are harvested, the berries are shelled, eliminating the green or red unripe ones. Wash well and put on a low heat with a glass of water and 1 kg of sugar for 1.2 kg of berries, add the yellow zest of half a lemon. Boil gently leaving the saucepan uncovered and stirring frequently with a wooden spoon until the jam comes off the sides and spoon.
On the other hand, to make pancakes with elderberry flowers you need elderberry inflorescences with just blooming flowers; 5 eggs; 2 tablespoons of white flour; half liter of milk; peanut oil; Salt to taste; honey; an orange peel. Prepare a batter by dissolving the white flour in the milk, add the egg yolks, a pinch of salt, the orange peel and let it rest for an hour. Whisk the egg whites until stiff and add them to the batter. Dip the flowers in the batter and fry them in boiling oil. Remove the stalks, drain them on absorbent paper and serve hot with honey.
For the elderflower syrup you need to get 20 inflorescences, 8 untreated lemons cut into slices, 1 liter of water, 2 kg of sugar, 2 glasses of apple cider vinegar. In a jar with a lid, put the flowers, lemons, and water, leave it in the sun for 5 days. Open, add the sugar and vinegar and leave for another 5 days in the sun. Filter and store in a cool place. This syrup is an excellent thirst quencher and can be served diluted with water according to your tastes. Keep in the fridge.