(April) The elderberry bushes have started to leaf out, new growth from last years cutting is starting to look like it'll be a bumper crop this year.
(July 12) A closer look at the forming berries (above). All the flower petals have come off of this cluster. If you look closely, you can see a tiny spider taking his hot afternoon siesta on the bottom of a branch. You have to be careful to not collect the spiders and other bugs and insects with the bunches when harvesting. They will float to the top when you wash them, although I'd rather have them stay outside.
Our harvest yielded 6, 8 oz jars! I also made fresh mint jelly today from mint found out in our yard, although I put the sugar in too soon, so I'm not sure if it will set properly. If it doesn't set, I'll try another batch tomorrow.
(June) Pictured here on June 27, the blossoms are starting to fall from the clusters. New berries are forming. They are so small, only about 1/8 of an inch when they are fully ripe. Last year we canned a total of 18 ounces of jelly. We waited too long to harvest, and another half of the berries were used in an art project. Check out this Syrup of Violet video, you can do something similar with the juice from elderberries creating color test strips that measure ph levels.
(August 19) We harvested the berries yesterday and started the process of washing, destemming, and going through the pile of teeny weeny morsels to take out any green or not so ripe ones. (if you ever do this, be sure to wash the berries while they are still on the stems, it makes it much easier.) The crop wasn't as prolific as last year and I've done some research about pruning the trees in order to encourage a more abundant crop next year. Elderberries are a lot like blueberries with their care and maintenance. Thankfully there is Simply Recipies where I've gotten both my recipe for the jelly and instructions on care and pruning. This recipe is wonderful, and if you've got access to elderberry bushes, I highly recommend trying this out. You will not be disappointed for all of your efforts. You need to collect about 3 to 4 pounds of berries to yield about 3 cups of juice.
We have several plantings and now that I know more about their care, we should have better results next year, hopefully. Maybe 2013. Jeff said he found a bunch of wild elderberry bushes on a walk in the woods yesterday, so if we are super motivated, we'll go out there and collect a second batch. You need about 3 to 4 pounds of berries for 5-6 8oz jars of jelly. 3 to 4 pounds of these berries is A LOT of berries!
(August 20) Here are some photos of the berries in various stages of processing. I'm planning on getting some Weck jars for next year! They are so clean and sleek....love them. These are 8oz Ball Jars. I get the flat ones because they are so compact and easy to stack on each other.