Trying to avoid toxic jam

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Trying to avoid toxic jam

by arthur45 » Sun Aug 14, 2011 5:02 pm

Can some of you knowledgeable people identify these wild black berries which appear in vast numbers down here at this time of year? The format and colour reminds me of elderberries, but they were surely on quite big trees, whereas these are roadside plants often well under a metre high. The reddish tint leaves and stalks seem quite distinctive.

If elder, am I right that they are toxic raw, OK cooked, which may explain why nobody picks them?

Cf. second photo, different leaves, same format of berry clusters but much less dense, and found definitely on trees, not low plants. Is this perhaps elder and the other something else?

Any info welcome.

Arthur
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Re: Trying to avoid toxic jam

by Philip » Mon Aug 15, 2011 3:05 pm

Trouble is that there are so many varieties of elderberry. I've seen the short shrub before and assumed that it is not an edible elderberry. Your second 'photo looks more like the elderberry I am familiar with.

According to Wikipedia (and we all know how reliable that is!) the leaves, stalks, unripe berries and unopened flower buds can contain appreciable quantities of cyanide which can build up in the body if enough is eaten. The ripe berries and the opened flowers are however safe.

There is also a good (albeit American) guide which can be downloaded as a PDF file:-
Extract from PDF file
Plant Guide
Plant Materials <http://plant-materials.nrcs.usda.gov/>
Plant Fact Sheet/Guide Coordination Page <http://plant-materials.nrcs.usda.gov/intranet/pfs.html>
National Plant Data Center <http://npdc.usda.gov>
COMMON
ELDERBERRY
Sambucus nigra L. ssp.
canadensis (L.) R. Bolli
Plant Symbol = SANIC4
Contributed by: USDA NRCS National Plant Data
Center & the Biota of North America Program
Alternate Names
Arizona elderberry, American elder, sweet elder, wild
elder, flor sauco, tree of music, Danewort, Walewort,
New Mexican elderberry, velvet-leaf elder, hairy blue
elderberry, and dwarf elder. Taxonomically, there
have been recent changes in this elderberry species.
It was previously divided into Sambucus coriacea,
Sambucus orbiculata, Sambucus velutina, and
Sambucus caerulea (Munz 1968). This species is
known in some floras as Sambucus mexicana.
Uses
Ethnobotanic: Only the blue or purple berries of
elderberry are edible. Edible berries and flower are
used for medicine, dyes for basketry, arrow shafts,
flute, whistles, clapper sticks, and folk medicine.
The active alkaloids in elderberry plants are
hydrocyanic acid and sambucine. Both alkaloids will
cause nausea so care should be observed with this
plant. Elderberries are high in Vitamin C. The red
berries of other species are toxic and should not be
gathered.

Elderberries are quite edible. The blue or purple
berries are gathered and made into elderberry wine,
jam, syrup, and pies. The entire flower cluster can be
dipped in batter and fried while petals can be eaten
raw or made into a fragrant and tasty tea.

Best of luck and with your jam/wine.

Philip

PS It's supposed to be good as a substitute for blue berries on pancakes!
Philip
 

Re: Trying to avoid toxic jam

by Cathy » Mon Aug 15, 2011 3:59 pm

ooh Philip has beaten to it with what looks like a very comprehensive answer, but prior to that I asked a friend who knows about these things and she advised as follows:

The first one, I am fairly sure, looks , and sounds from the description, like Dwarf Elder Sambucus ebulus , which grows to 1 metre. I do not know whether this is edible-Sambucus nigra - the elderberry tree does have edible flowers and fruits - I have made jam from the fruits
The second one is 'Dogwood' Cornus sanguinea which grows to 4 metres - not edible as far as I know
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Re: Trying to avoid toxic jam

by Myrtle&Martin » Thu Aug 18, 2011 9:48 am

Just to add a bit to Cathy and Philip's info. The second one is definitely dogwood and the first is called by the French ' faux sureau' ie. 'false elderberry' which says it all really. Flowers and berries resemble the real elderberry but the stalks tend to be single and upright, rather than the more bushy, branching habit of the real thing, which also has a distinctive smell - hard to describe, but a bit acrid. True elderberry has been used as a food and medicine for a long time - my mother taught me to make a fizzy drink from the flowers and made a cough syrup from elder berries and blackberries ( I can post up the recipies if you're interested). Faux sureau has started to invade our garden in the last year and is becoming a bit of a menace as it spreads very fast, and is growing over 8 feet high in some places. It gives off a curious meaty smell when I rip it out of the ground, but I wouldn't recommend using dogwood or faux sureau for anything edible.
Liz
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Re: Trying to avoid toxic jam

by Cathy » Thu Aug 18, 2011 1:23 pm

it never ceases to amaze me what founts of knowledge spout on the AN! but 'fraid I can't take an credit for my posting, I asked a botanist friend! would love you to post your recipes for elderflower/berry, Liz, specially the fizz, that's right up my street!
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Re: Trying to avoid toxic jam

by arthur45 » Sat Aug 20, 2011 4:53 pm

Thanks for all the helpful advice. I think I'm now slightly inclined to play safe and stick to more orthodox fruit, but I'm certainly now better informed. Liz's vivid description of a curious meaty smell certainly makes one stop and think !!!

Interested to see the term "sureau" though - when I was in food retailing in another département I actually sold jam which was labelled sureau. From the producer's description I had taken it to be a different sort of berry, closer to a rose hip. But it indicates that it is produced in commercial (albeit small artisanal) quantities.

Arthur
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Re: Trying to avoid toxic jam

by Myrtle&Martin » Sun Aug 21, 2011 10:23 am

Hi Arthur, Cathy
I've just checked sureau in our big French dictionary and it definitely gives 'elderberry'.I'm fascinated by the jam you used to sell - who produced it? Some people use the flowers in jam too - I got given a jar of rhubarb and elderflower once, it was lovely but i don't have a recipe for it.
However, i do have the ones I mentioned before. Like a lot of old recipies, quantities and methods are not exact or in metric, so its a case of try out to see what works for you - please don't hold me responsible if anything goes wrong - I've had the odd duff batch myself!
Blackberry/elderberry Syrup
use either all blackberries, elderberries , or a mixture of the two, wash the fruit and strip the elderberries off the stalks using a fork, then weigh.
Add a quarter pint of water for every 3 pounds of fruit and cook gently till all the juice comes out, then strain and for every pint of juice add 6 oz. sugar and half a teaspoon of cinnamon ( you can also use ground ginger). Boil these up together for about 15 minutes ,stirring well to make sure the sugar is all dissolved, and pour into warm, sterile bottles. You can use the syrup by the spoonful to sooth a sore throat, or as drink mixed in hot or cold water.
Elderflower 'Champagne'
pick elderflowers on a dry day, preferably in the morning when they're fresher, about a dozen heads
wash them and snip off the thicker stalks
Put flowers in a non- metal container that will hold about a gallon of liquid ( a plastic bowl or bucket will do) and add 7 pints of cold water, 4 sliced- up lemons and 2 large spoonfuls of cider or white wine vinegar.
In a saucepan,mix a pound of sugar with a pint of water, bring to the boil and add to the flowers etc.
Cover and leave to steep for a day, stirring now and again. Strain and pour into bottles - not screw cap. You can drink it after a week, but i prefer to leave it 2 weeks as the fizz and flavour intensifies.However if you leave it too long , pressure can build up till bottles blow their corks - or worse - I remember a forgotten bottle exploding in the garage when i was a kid!
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Re: Trying to avoid toxic jam

by arthur45 » Sun Aug 21, 2011 3:52 pm

It was made by Au Faisan Doré in Collonges-sous-Salève in Haute Savoie, but I have just looked up their web site and they no longer offer sureau. They do offer "Cramaillotte" which is jam made from dandelion flowers, and seedless raspberry (do they really pick out all these tiny little pips?).

To add to the recipes above, I have found on line a recipe which gives a reassuringly confirming photo and a simple recipe (altho they still say beware similar cousins are toxic) : http://www.echodelavallee.com/actualites/echo-actu/item/1691-la-confiture-de-sureau-.html

Have I accidentally turned this forum into an offshoot of Womens Institute ?

Arthur

(As long as nobody suggests a calendar ;))
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Re: Trying to avoid toxic jam

by Myrtle&Martin » Sun Aug 21, 2011 6:52 pm

no way, and I'm not singing Jerusalem either! :shock:
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