magical elders

it’s been a wonderful week of hiking, tree climbing, and foraging. spending time with the elders (giant cedar trees, watchful owls, and berries of the elder variety). quinn and i were driving down a road toward the drift creek wilderness near our home and this owl was looking down at us. we spent the longest time contemplating each other.

finally she flew away, and we went about our business, collecting elderberries. the local elders here are the red variety, not the black/purple ones we know from back east. all elderberry trees have the same toxins in all their green parts (something related to cyanide) and so the only edible part is the ripe berry. in the case of red elder, it’s suggested in some places that it isn’t at all edible, but it’s known that the natives in our area depended on it heavily for food (losey 2003 in the journal of archaeological science). 

once it’s cooked and the seeds have been removed, the berry flesh is not only harmless, it also contains the wonderful immune-boosting characteristics of other elderberry cousins. even the national institute of health admits that elderberry extract is useful to deal with flu symptoms (slight pause while everyone runs away from my post to go and pick some in advance of this year’s H1N1 season….) they have lots of antioxidants, as well as more vitamin C than oranges or tomatoes. vitamin A, calcium, thiamine, niacin are also present. i also read that elderberries contain twice the calories of cranberries and three times the protein of blueberries!

some birds and butterflies depend on elder for their nutrition. and last but not least, the elder wand, the most powerful wand in the wizarding world of harry potter, was made of none other than the wood of an elderberry tree.

have a magical day!

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