Tuesday, August 23, 2011

We Make Our Own Cough Syrup, too...

I am a big believer in food as medicine. I believe food is taken into the body and then treated as either a medicine with incredible healing powers, as a food for general energy, or as a poison that can weaken. That being said I am also into medicinal herbs and edible weeds. I have eaten dandelion in salads, tasted a edible weed that is incredibly similar to pepper (yarrow - old man's pepper), and two years ago we made our first batch of homemade cough syrup. It was a learning experience and after a couple Ohio winters our stash has dwindled and we set to make another batch.

The commercial name for elderberry syrup is sambucol and it is marketed to support the immune system. Even being in the natural foods industry, this product is never cheap. If you had to harvest the flowers and berries at the exact right time and pick the itsy bitsy berries off their delicate stems, you would definitely understand why. (I have the kids do it on the porch.) With a family of seven boosting our immune systems sounds like a great idea until you have to pay an arm and a leg for it. But if it was growing in my backyard for free and just needed a little attention, I could do that.

Granted we only use berries, sugar and water while most commercial brands of elderberry syrups also contain the actual flower, I am still happy with the results. (I am not writing this post as a recipe or a how-to but more as another way to use what you have. This is something we have studied and researched and we never eat anything we are not 100% sure of its identity.) A few warnings about elderberries. The seeds contain cyanide so you don't want to eat them raw. Elderberries also can be easily confused with other less tasty and potentially harmful berries.

Today I have 10 pints up in the cupboard and one open in the fridge. A teaspoon a day for general immune system support and a tablespoon for when our bodies are actually in battle against nasty winter sicknesses.

If you don't have this tiny fruit populating your property, elderberries are made into jams and jellies sometimes found at apple houses or farmers markets. I have not tried them as a preserve so if you do let me know if it's worth trying that next summer.

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