Elderflower and elderberry come from Sambucus (elder plant), a genus of flowering plants in the family Adoxaceae. The various species are commonly called elder or elderberry, native to most of Europe and North America.
Elderflower and elderberry contain similar nutritional compounds but they are used differently for most purposes. This article brings out a comparison of the two in terms of their particular features and varying uses. Here, also learn about elderflower seeds and, blue and black elderberries.
Elderflower Vs. Elderberry
First of all, the flower and berry are two different parts of the same plant. From the culinary point of view, the major differences between elderberry and elderflower are their distinctive aroma, flavor, and texture, also varied uses, and benefits.
Small, white elderflowers grow on elderberry trees and bloom from June to July. Whereas, bunches of blue or dark purple or black elderberries are ripe from September to October.
The flower is known for its pleasant sweet aroma. They taste green, fruity, and floral with subtle notes of lychee and pear. Flowers also exhibit strong undertones of passionfruit and vanilla mix and have citrus notes as well. On the other hand, elderberry is mostly tart and fruity without the aromatic qualities of the flower.
In culinary uses, Elderflower is mostly used in recipes that call for infusion like cordial and syrups. The aroma and taste of the tender flowers decimate in prolonged high-flame cooking, thus they work best as a garnish or for infusion. Hardy elderberries can withstand heat, so they work well in jams and jellies that involve high-heat cooking.
Elderflower is mostly used for making cordials and syrups meant for flavoring liqueur, jams, jelly, desserts, or baked goods. The elderberries are known for their useful medicinal properties in them and extracts of this berry are a key ingredient in several medicines.
Elderberries are mildly toxic because of cyanogen glycosides present in them but the flowers aren’t toxic for they do not contain this toxic compound. Warning, eating raw elderberries is not recommended for their toxic properties and it goes the same with the leaves and bark of the elder tree.
Elderberry vs. Black Elderberry
You can find several species and sub-species of elderberry belong to the genus Sambucus. The two most common types of elderberry plants are the American elderberry (Sambucus canadensis) and the European elderberry (Sambucus nigra).
In common man’s language, ‘black elderberry’ refers to the Sambucus nigra, a species that bears dark purple-colored berries. Black elderberries are round, shiny, dark purple berries, and this variety is mostly found and used in Northern Africa and Europe. Those trees that bear black-colored berries are known in different names such as black elder tree, European elderberry, or black elderberry.
The common elderberry is the Sambucus Canadensis, also known as the American black elderberry or Canada elderberry. Like nigra, they also have dark purple-colored berries, commonly known as black elderberries.
Another variety is the blue Elderberry, Mexican Elderberry, or Tapiro native from Oregon to Baja all the way to western Texas. Like the purple berries, blue-colored berries are also edible but mostly used in medical preparations.
The tiny elderberries that grow in bunches are the fruits of the elder tree. A single berry is about 1/8 to ¼ inch in diameter. The berries contain a tiny seed that occupies about 50 percentage portion of the berry, encased inside the flesh. Berries along with seeds are suitable for eating, but cooking is necessary to destroy the toxic contents like glycosides present in the seeds.
Elder saplings can be raised from both seeds and roots. You can get the elderberry seeds or plant saplings from reputed seeds or seedlings suppliers.
Elderberry seeds have a thick, tough seed coat. For this reason, the seeds must obtain congenial conditions before waking up from their natural dormancy. Take the advice of a plantation expert if you are not sure of growing elder shrubs.
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Can You Use Flowers And Berries Interchangeably?
For all purposes, elderflower and elderberries have different uses except for a few. Berries are mostly used for their medicinal benefits but flowers are widely used in culinary applications. In a pinch, you can use cooked berries to make jams, syrups, juices, chutneys, wine, and pies. The berries are not a perfect match for the splendid aroma and sweet flavor of the flowers. Importantly, both of them have totally different appearances, and their flavors have only minimal similarities.
The flowers and berries contain similar medicinal properties, thus they can be used interchangeably for the preparation of medicines.
The Bottom Line
Elderberry and elderflowers are two parts of the same Sambucus species of plants. The sweet aroma and distinctive earthy, peach, vanilla flavors of elderflowers are very useful in flavoring cordials, syrups, and liqueur. Whereas, the tart and fruity flavor of elderberries are suitable for making jams and jellies. Berries have great medicinal applications while flowers have several culinary uses.