elderberry poisonous stems?

locust(z9 CA)September 10, 2004

Hi, I eat elderberries all the time and love them. I had no idea until today that the stems were poisonous. We brewed beer last week and flavored it with elderberry, and there were some of the stems still attached to the berries which we boiled. I think it'll be safe, but would like to hear from someone on the subject.



Lafayette, CA

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maryliz(5b/SE lower MI)

The only way I have ever eaten elderberries was to fritter the flower heads just as the flowers were opening, but from many different sources, I have heard that the "stems" should be carefully removed when making wine, syrup and jelly. Certainly, all the green parts, stems and root are poisonous. According to this herbal, the peduncles and pedicels that subtend the fruit should be discarded. Perhaps these parts are safe when the flowers are just opening, but by the time the fruit is ripe, they have accumulated enough of the toxins to be a problem.

I have only tasted the fruit, never eaten any quantity, because I read that it should only be eaten after it is cooked. I found a recipehref> for "Elderberry Crunch Bread." I'm gonna hafta try putting elderberries into baked goods!

    Bookmark   September 30, 2004 at 11:51AM
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reinbeaux(z8 WA State)

stems and roots contain cyanide. I would have to look in my chem books to see if cyanide is heat stable (I think it is) I don't know how much cyanide they contain --- almonds contain cyanide too and they are generally safe to eat -- I would research it further.

    Bookmark   October 1, 2004 at 1:09AM
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flora_uk(SW UK 8/9)

Well I should be dead then. Although recipes say to remove the flowers or berries from the stems, I always assumed that this was a council of perfection and was only a question of flavour. I, being very lazy, could never be bothered to be too thorough and just trim the berries or flowers off as close as I can with scissors. Consequently, my elderberry jelly is always made with a bit of stalk included. To make elderflower syrup or wine I do the same. We must be a tough family as we have been eating and drinking this stuff for twenty five years.

    Bookmark   October 30, 2004 at 10:09AM
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hersh67(z9 Smthvlle TX)

Usually it is the bark from the larger stems that is toxic. I do not know what the toxin is but an old Arkansas woman gave me a recipe for burn ointment using elder inner bark, cooked in milk, strained off and the milk simmered with lard until the milk turns to cracklin's at the bottom. pout off the greenish lard and put in jars for use later.Almonds probably have no cyanogenic compounds, but apricot, peach and apple seeds contain dangerous amounts. It used to be called Vitamin B17 or laitrile, and is a dangerous cyanogenic glucoside. I never got into problims with the few berry stemlets either raw or in wine, either.

    Bookmark   November 3, 2004 at 12:22AM
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shellbell3252(z7 AL)

Hi,im geting ready to plant elderberrys for first time.I have two young kids and we all love fresh juice.But now im confused what part of the plant is ok to juice and eat?And does it have to be cooked? Thanks michelle

    Bookmark   February 5, 2005 at 1:28PM
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Robert_in_MT(z4 nw MT)

Do a search and you may decide you like currants better. Elderberry can be poisonous to deer in hard winter so I would'nt want my kids eating it raw, juice is very good cooked with sugar and drained through cheese cloth. I have heard of a group of people in CA that died from drinking elderberry tea, it was CA elderberry which is more poisonous. I have a fifty foot hedge of York, Nova, and Adams elderberries (they need to cross-pollenate) and use them like blueberries and blackberries, just add more sugar and COOK them before eating them.
Hope you find info usefull and check into it and make informed choice.

Here is a link that might be useful: stone fruit

    Bookmark   April 12, 2005 at 11:33AM
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Dino_Tsapatsaris(9B Florida)

Well, the stems are toxic but getting the little stems off the berries is difficult, even if you freeze them. I just eat them anyway.

    Bookmark   April 14, 2005 at 9:57PM
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My mom has a great solution for separating the berries from the stems. Freeze the clusters whole for a few hours. The berries are much easier to detach.

I never get any of mine. The birds stip them clean before I even realize they are ripe!


    Bookmark   April 29, 2005 at 5:52PM
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flora_uk(SW UK 8/9)

I need to add that I was talking only about Sambucus nigra, the elderberry that is native here, not any of the red berried ones. I wouldn't think that the juice was very pleasant to drink raw even if it were safe. Also they are mostly pip, with very little flesh, so using them as a currant or raisin substitute would be a bit unpleasant to eat I would have thought.

    Bookmark   May 12, 2005 at 8:08AM
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I am not convinced that anyone on here knows for sure. In researching university extension publications, I see nothing that indicates toxicity. Yet, there are people who claim that a mere taste of raw fruit will immediately lead to convulsive stomach pain.

Bottom line, I am more willing to trust university extension publications than I am to opinions from people.

    Bookmark   August 23, 2011 at 10:25PM
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greenhummer(zone 5,Ohio)

I've been eating raw elderberries for forty plus years with the stems but not any green parts. A tip that I can share.... when trying to remove the berries from the stem is to use a wide tooth comb that works very well and your hands never touches the berries. In Germany, Elderberry flower water is better than lemonade.

    Bookmark   October 10, 2011 at 8:48PM
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I love the taste of raw elderberries and eat them right off the sprig. Only the real ripe ones. I don't know why everyone says there is a problem. I actually feel better after eating them. I wouldn't eat them after eating a sweet that would make them taste bad. i also love the taste of wild black cherries. Is there something wrong with me?

    Bookmark   August 4, 2013 at 3:49AM
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chervil2(z5 MA)

It is important to keep in perspective that many food plants contain cyanide. Thankfully, the levels are usually low and a healthy diet can detoxify this chemical. Here is a link to an abstract that is helpful. I really wish the full text was in the public domain since this is an important public health issue.

Here is a link that might be useful: Food plants containing cyanide

    Bookmark   August 26, 2013 at 8:18AM
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