Aralia spinosa is sometimes confused with elderberry because the berries look the same. Telling these two plants apart is made even more difficult by the fact that the leaves are not very different. This is not the only feature that you must pay attention to.
Aralia spinosa can be toxic if it’s berries aren’t cooked, so it’s important for people who like to gather berries in the wild to learn how to distinguish this plant from elderberry. The stem of this plant carries thorns but the stem of the elderberry plant does not carry thorns.
There is also another common plant which can sometimes be confused with elderberry. This is water hemlock, one of the most dangerous plants in North America.
The veins on leaves of water hemlock don’t terminate at the tips of the teeth. Instead, the veins terminate at the notches in most cases. You may occasionally find a vein terminating in a notch on elderberry but this is not the typical case.
Both water hemlock and elderberry can grow near to water. However, most of the time, if you find a plant that looks like it has berries that are similar to elderberry and it’s thriving in standing water, that plant would actually be water hemlock. Water hemlock also dies back in the winter, while elderberry is a year-round plant.
People who enjoy cooked elderberry regularly, benefit from vitamins and antioxidants that can boost their immune system. People who consume this type of berry can also experience relief from cold and flu symptoms.
How to Identify Elderberry
Many people like to pick elderberry in the wild. In this context, you’ll always want to be certain that you’re actually picking the right type of berry. This helps you to avoid look alikes which could possibly make you ill.
Elderberry is usually identified by its distinctive leaves. These are usually arranged in pairs, with five to seven leaves on every stem.
Elderberry has leaves that are oblong in shape. The edges of these leaves resemble the teeth of a bread knife or a saw. Always remember that the edges are serrated.
Elderberry leaves are green in color. However, the mid rib tends to be a lighter shade of green than the rest of the leaf. As the veins leave the mid rib they’re prominent but they become less so as they go towards the edges of each leaf.
Are they edible?
The type of elderberry that’s usually grown in gardens is edible and that’s why some people choose to grow it at home. There are several shrub and tree varieties that are decorative and will add to your selection of homegrown edible berries. These include the European Elder.
European Elder can be pruned so that it resembles a tree. This type of elderberry prefers a cool climate and its berries are edible. However, as with all other edible elderberries, these berries should be cooked before they are consumed.
Once they’re cooked, you can use the berries to make jams, wines and syrups. While Black Elderberry is a popular choice among gardeners for its beauty, it should be approached with care.
The seeds, leaves and roots of Black Elderberry are all poisonous to humans. If these are consumed, it would lead to an accumulation of cyanide in the body. This could cause symptoms such as nausea, vomiting and coma.
Can you eat raw elderberry?
Experts do not recommend that anyone eats raw elderberry. Elderberry contains chemicals known as glycosides which can lead to an accumulation of cyanide in the body. This can result in severe nausea and even coma.
In some cases, hospitalization may be required to treat someone who has consumed raw elderberry. When the berries are cooked, the glycosides in the seeds are destroyed. This makes them safe to eat.
Cooking elderberry actually concentrates the anthocyanins that are within it. This makes the fruit even more beneficial for you. When elderberries are cooked, you can also enjoy benefits such as it’s high vitamin C content, fiber and flavonols.
Is it safe to touch elderberry?
Most children and adults can touch the elderberry plant without any worries. It’s completely safe for most individuals to touch the fruit, leaves, stems and roots of this plant. However, it is not safe to consume any part of the plant raw.
Some people are more susceptible to allergic reactions than others. While most people won’t have problems after touching elderberry, some can experience skin irritation if they touch the leaves or other parts of the plant.
It’s important to note that you don’t have to swallow elderberry to feel nauseous. If you put the stem in your mouth in order to use it as a peashooter, you’ll have a bad reaction to it. Doing so can cause you to vomit or have diarrhea, so children should be warned against doing that.
What does elderberry taste like?
Elderberry is tart and earthy. However this berry is also very sweet. This means that it can be combined with both tart and sweet fruit in a range of jams and other dishes.
Some elderberries are more tart and bitter than others. If you mistakenly place an uncooked elderberry in your mouth, you’ll notice that it tastes really bitter in that state. This will help to remind you that it should be cooked. The flavor of elderberries improves after they are heated.
Where can you find elderberry?
You could find elderberry in a wide range of settings. You might be able to identify an elderberry plant while you’re hiking. It will thrive in woodlands, wasteland and hedgerows.
They’re native to an area of North America that’s east of the Rocky Mountains. You may even find an elderberry plant growing in your garden. In that case, you can look forward to having the fruit for your jams and other dishes.