It is berry season! We've had great strawberries, raspberries, blueberries and blackberries! But now we have the elderberries coming into their own.
Elderberries are a native shrub you'll see growing in meadows and abandoned fields. But you can grow certain varieties of them that have bigger berries and better fruit production. For fruit production look for varieties like Samdal, Johns and Nova. Those are the good varieties to grow.
Elderberries can grow big. Some can grow 8-10 feet tall, but they produce great berries that are good to eat. You can eat them fresh. But they don't have a whole lot of flavor just eaten fresh. They're best used to make jams, juices, jellies and wine, of course!
As they start fruiting you're not the only one who is interested in elderberries. You can see already a bunch of them have been picked off by the birds. If you have an elderberry bush this is what you want to do to protect them from the birds. Take a plastic bag and just cover the bunches. Once the berries turn really dark purple, then you can just snip the bunch off and then take the freezer bag with the berries in it and put it in the freezer. One of the problems with elderberries is these really small berries are hard to pick off one by one. But if you freeze them first, then bring them out the next day, you just shake the bag and they all just drop right off to put in smoothies.
There are ornamental versions of elderberries too. This one is called 'Black Lace'. You can get a beautiful one to fit in your landscape. These are a little smaller, and don't as big a berry production, but a more attractive plant than a huge monster.