Elderflower and elderberry come from Sambucus (elder plant), a genus of flowering plants in the family Adoxaceae. The plants are easy to forage and grow. The various species are commonly called “elder” or “elderberry,” and are 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, you can also learn about elderflower seeds and, blue and black elderberries.
Elderberry Vs. Elderflower
First of all, the flower and the berry are two different parts of the same plant. From a culinary point of view, the major differences between elderberry and elderflower are their distinctive aroma, flavor, and texture, as well as their varied uses and benefits.
Small, white blossoms grow on elderberry trees and bloom from June to July. Whereas, bunches of blue, 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 a 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 applications, elderflower is mostly used in recipes that call for infusions like cordials and syrups. The aroma and taste of the tender flowers are destroyed in prolonged high-flame cooking, so 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 liqueurs, jams, jellies, desserts, and baked goods. The elderberries are known for their useful medicinal properties, and extracts of this berry are a key ingredient in several medicines.
Elderberries are mildly toxic because of the cyanogen glycosides present in them, but the flowers aren’t toxic because 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.
Health Benefits of Elderberries and Elderflowers
Most likely, you’ve drunk some elderflower cordial or elderberry syrup before without even knowing the several good benefits of this flower. Elderflower tea or beverage is a traditional remedy for relieving indigestion and symptoms of sinusitis.
Some of the best-known health benefits of elderflower include:
- Helps sinuses and bronchitis
- Improves circulation
- Relieves colds, flu, and influenza
- Improves skin health
- Provides immune support
- Improves diabetes
- Remove constipation
It’s often used as a diuretic for it increases urine production. Also, it helps to increase sweating and stops bleeding.
The health benefits of elderberries also produce similar effects of the flower. In addition, they help to lower cholesterol, reduce the risk of cancer, and lower the risk of heart disease. The berries are also very nutritious and contain hefty doses of antioxidants, dietary fiber, and flavonoids.
Note that there is insufficient evidence to rate all these benefits but they are possibly effective and safe to use.
Warning: Certain parts of the elder plant such as unripe berries, bark, and leaves are unsafe for use. They contain a type of glycoside that produce cyanide which can cause poisonous effects.
Elderberry vs. Black Elderberry
You can find several species and subspecies of elderberries that 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 by different names, such as the black elder tree, European elderberry, or black elderberry.
The common elderberry is Sambucus Canadensis, also known as the American black elderberry or Canadian 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 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 percent of the berry, encased inside the flesh. Berries and their 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 elderberry seeds or plant saplings from reputed seed or seedling 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 about growing elder shrubs.
Can You Use Flowers And Berries Interchangeably?
For all purposes, elderflowers 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.
Flowers and berries contain similar medicinal properties; thus, they can be used interchangeably for the preparation of medicines.
Elderberries and elderflowers are two parts of the same Sambucus species of plant. The sweet aroma and distinctive earthy, peach, and vanilla flavors of elderflowers are very useful in flavoring cordials, syrups, and liqueurs. whereas the tart and fruity flavor of elderberries make them suitable for making jams and jellies. Berries have great medicinal applications, while flowers have several culinary uses.
Recommended reading list: