~~~~~~~ Uncommon Plants for the Garden Bring Much Joy ~~~~~~~
Even though my garden is big by city standards, there’s never enough room for everything I want to grow. One of the strategies I’ve developed is to grow things that I can’t buy in a store.
Enter Elder and Josta, two delicious nutritious berries (pronounced yusta-berry). Make juice, pies, jellies. Dip the huge elderflower in (soy) milk, drudge in cornmeal and lightly fry up a delightful Flower-Fritter!
For a more adult type of fun try alcoholic infusions. Easier than pie to make, much easier.
Method: fill a big glass jar with flowers or fruit, pour the liquor or wine over and cover. Let it sit awhile. One week, two weeks a few months, there’re no hard and fast rules. When you’re ready strain if flowers, or use a tomato press to squeeze every last bit of juice out of the fruit.
When I make a concoction out of both flowers and fruit I infuse each one separately. This way I’m straining flowers and squeezing fruit.
Last year I made an Elderflower Gin that was out of this world. A splash of tonic and you have the essence of sunshine in a glass.
This year I’m basing my beverage on the Whiskey Sour. First I’m infusing the flowers in whisky. After two weeks I’ll strain out the flowers and I’ll add the Jostaberries. This I’ll put through the tomato press (or use a food mill) so all the dark, tangy goodness from the berries will stay in my beverage.
Below find an articles on the horticultural properties of Elder trees and Jostaberrie bushes, and an article that details some of the mythical and magical properties of the Elder.
~~~~~~~~~~ Elder in Folklore and Magic ~~~~~~~~~~
Source: The Practical Herbalist
Elder is a relative new-commer in world folklore, holding her place most prominently in European history and mythos where she has been associated closely with the Celtic faerie lands and those similar otherworldly realms of various European traditions. Elder is sacred to many goddess-traditions and especially to the goddesses Venus and Holle. Most popular among pagan traditions modern and old is the myth of the Elder Mother, a spirit who inhabits the Elder tree and holds the power to work a variety of magics in this world.
Among pagan traditions, Elder has held a place of respect. The ability to protect; induce vivid dreams, particularly of the Faerie realms; to heal; and to exorcise or remove negative spells and influences are among Elder’s pagan attributes.
It was said that to wear or carry Elder wood, leaves, flowers or berries would protect you from attack.
+ Elderberry oil or water was used in blessing rituals.
+ Elder leaves and branches were often hung in doorways and windows to protect those who lived within.
+ Elder planted in the back yard, particularly near the kitchen, provided protection from negative influences and disease.
+ Elder flowers were used in a facial wash to lighten and care for the skin.
+ It was said that if you fell asleep under the elder you would dream of the faerie lands.
Conversely, amongst Christian traditions, the Elder was a fearful symbol of sorrow and death. Langland, in The Vision of Piers Plowman, claimed that Elder was the tree on who’s branches Judas Iscariot committed suicide by hanging. At times, elder was also said to have been the tree whose wood was used to make the cross on which Jesus was crucified. Elder has been used in a variety of burial rituals and in various rituals for identifying and protecting against witches.
Elder wood, too, has a powerful place in folklore. Elder’s branches are hard and easily polished on the outside and they have a soft, springy core that is easily removed. For those reasons, they have often been used to make woodwind instruments that are said to produce the music faeries and similar spirits love best. Elder wood burns quickly, producing a great deal hissing and crackling, which is most likely why the gypsies held it taboo to burn Elder.
Elder’s lesson and her magic is that of the Gateway Guardian. She teaches us the gateway guardian is a mixture of strength and protection, softness and light. Her skin, bark and outer wood are strong and hard, offering protection to the soft inner core and sap that is the blood of life and the dwelling place of the spirit.
Woodwind instruments made from Elder are said to produce music most beloved of the Spirit world, hinting at Elder’s power to connect energies across the divide. If Elder has come into your life, she may be asking you to be the instrument through which two worlds may connect. Elder magic is the magic of juxtaposition, the place where opposites find synergistic expression.
That place where opposites meet creates strength and presence that can seem illogical when viewed from strictly one perspective. Elder teaches us we must learn to embrace multiple perspectives if we are to master the threshold. While she is a shallow-rooted tree, she is sturdy and strong. While her canopy is airy and light, wide and often growing so low as to touch the ground, she provides effective shelter from the elements.
A hedgerow of Elder will keep weeds at bay and prevent passage despite her airy appearance. Elder magic is the magic of synergizing power from disparate sources. She teaches us that to be effective, we must derive power from and be well-versed in both sides of the threshold we guard.
As a marker of the Gateway, Elder gives us little hints at the energies on the other side. She is an early bloomer, offering us a glimpse of the upcoming season’s light, airy energies through her sweet-scented, airy blossoms. Late, as the world is preparing for the darkness of winter, she offers up clusters of dark, tannic berries, an indicator of the darkness to come. Elder magic is the magic of tantalization and hope. When Elder has come to you regarding a specific project, she may be suggesting you give the world a taste of what is to come.
In astrology, Elder is considered a feminine tree and is governed by Venus. Her element is water.
~~~~~~~~~~ Elderberry in Alternative Medicine ~~~~~~~~~~
Elderberry, or elder, has been used for centuries to treat wounds (when applied to the skin) and for respiratory illnesses (when taken internally). In many countries, including Germany, elder flower is used to treat colds and flu. Some evidence suggests that chemicals in elder flower and berries may help reduce swelling in mucous membranes (such as the sinuses) and help relieve nasal congestion. Elder may have anti-inflammatory, antiviral and anticancer properties.
Elderberry also contains flavonoids, which have antioxidant properties and may help prevent damage to the body’ s cells. However, very few studies have been done in humans, so the effectiveness of elder is not known.
There are several species of elder, but Sambucus nigra, or European elder (also called black elder), is the one used most often for medicinal purposes. Avoid dwarf elder (Sambucus ebulus), which can be toxic. It is important to use a trusted preparation of elder because raw or unripe fruit — as well as the leaves, seeds, and bark — of the plant contain a chemical related to cyanide, which is poisonous.
European elder is a large shrub or small tree that grows up to 30 feet tall in wet or dry soil in a sunny location. It is native to Europe, Africa, and parts of Asia, but has become naturalized in the United States. Deciduous leaves grow in opposite pairs and have five to seven leaflets. Flowers are white and flat-topped with five primary rays. Berries are green, turning red and then black when ripe.
The berries and flowers are used medicinally. Berries must be cooked before they are consumed. Raw berries contain a chemical similar to cyanide.
Elderberry may help reduce the symptoms of colds and flu by reducing congestion and possibly making you sweat more. One study suggested that using a standardized elderberry extract, Sambucol, could shorten the duration of flu by about 3 days. Sambucol also contains other herbs plus vitamin C, so it isn’ t known whether elderberry by itself would have the same effect. Another preliminary study found that a lozenge with elderberry extract (ViraBLOC) helped lessen flu symptoms when taken within 24 hours of initial symptoms. In the lab, one study suggested that elderberry could kill the H1N1 virus (“swine flu”) in test tubes, but it is not known whether it would be effective against H1N1 in people.
~~~~~~~~~~ Jostaberry ~~~~~~~~~~
Source: by Kris Wetherbee for the National Garden Association
Gooseberries and black currants are mainstays in European gardens, but they have never taken hold in North America. Perhaps the gooseberries’ tart flavor and thorns or the currants’ disease problems have discouraged gardeners here. However, a relative newcomer crosses the best of both species and results in an easy-to-grow bush fruit that tastes great eaten fresh or in jams and pies.
‘Josta’ berry (Ribes nidigrolaria) takes the looks of a gooseberry, removes the thorns, and makes it sweeter. It combines the vigorous growth and rich flavor of a black currant with disease resistance (including to white pine blister rust and mildew).
The tangy-sweet flavor of a jostaberry (pronounced yust-a-berry) is a mix of grape, blueberry, and kiwi-fruit. In recipes, substitute the 1/2- to 1-inch berries for cranberries. Though josta-berries are great in jams, jellies, and pies, mine never make it to the kitchen because I enjoy eating them right off the bush.
This German-bred berry was introduced in 1977, but recent breeding at USDA in Oregon has produced new varieties with better flavor and color.
The fast-growing, long-lived bush can easily grow 6 feet tall. It can be grown in USDA Hardiness Zones 3 through 8 and has survived temperatures down to -40° F. It has good summer heat tolerance and needs only 1,000 hours of winter chilling, making it a good bet in milder areas such as northern Georgia, Alabama, and Texas.
Maintenance is simple. Prune in late winter, cutting out broken or drooping branches. To encourage the growth of fewer, larger berries and new replacement shoots, cut the oldest one or two canes to the ground. Jostaberries are easily propagated by hardwood stem cuttings.
Because bushes flower in early spring, they may need protection from late-spring frosts in cold climates. They bear fruit by the second year on year-old wood, and fruiting spurs of older wood often produce up to 12 pounds of fruit per bush. Berries start off green, closely resembling a small gooseberry, and hang firmly in clusters of three to five. In early summer, they reach their final size and develop a translucent deep purple, almost black skin. The vitamin C-packed fruits are ready to pick by late June in my zone 8 climate.