How to Dehydrate Elderberries and Make Elderberry Powder
This article is about how to dehydrate elderberries and turn the dried berries into a useful powder for cold and flu season, or just to generally boost the immune system and improve health.
Elderberries have become quite a commodity these past several years. One of the most well-known over the counter immune-boosting and cold fighting drugs is called Sambucus, after the genus name of this incredible healing berry (Sambucus spp).
but you may not have considered elderberry powder.
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What prompted me to think of creating elderberry powder as a food preservation and storage method this mid-summer is that I am watching the elderberries rapidly ripen on the wild bushes and trees growing in my area! It’s time to forage and harvest elderberries again!
Foraging elderberries is one of my favorite seasonal activities. When I was a kid, my dad would take us to the mountains about an hour outside the big city where we lived, and he taught us about foraging. One annual trip we made every single year for nearly two decades was to harvest elderberries.
We used these berries to make old fashioned elderberry jam, a pioneer treat that was passed down through the generations. I always wonder if the pioneers knew of the medicinal properties of this incredible healing plant.
Now, normally, I would make the above-mentioned preparations as ways to preserve my elderberries. But I went a little crazy with my foraging of elderberries last late summer…due to the fact that we just moved to Idaho a few months earlier, and I had NO idea how blessed this place is with elderberries in abundance! I guess I went a little overboard.
So…I froze about five gallons of the berries. And it’s a good thing I did, too! We ended up using three gallons of the frozen berries throughout the winter for ourselves as well as for gifts for others….People LOVE homemade elderberry syrup!
But, now, as I watch the new harvest appear, I realized I just had to do something with those other two gallons of frozen elderberries. Well….I decided to dry them in our dehydrator!
I could have saved them this way, and indeed, whole dried elderberries are wonderful in the wintertime, too, and very useful in teas…but they do take up a bit of space in a pantry that is already overflowing with stored foods.
So…I decided to go ahead and turn them into elderberry powder, which takes up far less space, and is extremely useful as well! Maybe even more useful!
Here’s How to Dehydrate (Dry) and Make Elderberry Powder for Long-Term Storage
Dehydrating foods is SO simple, and this practice has been a food storage method for thousands of years! I love using my dehydrator to make fruit leathers and other snacks, especially. This food storage method is SO smart, because you save space, and the food lasts for many, many years; as opposed to a few months (fermentation) or a year (canning).
Here’s How I Dried My Elderberries:
Lay the fresh or frozen berries out on some parchment paper on top of your dehydrator screen. Spread them around so they are not on top of each other.
If you are starting with frozen berries (suggested), you can remove the stems very easily. You don’t want the stems in there, as they contain a cyano-compound that is mildly toxic and may cause stomach upset. If you get a few in there, don’t worry. You have to eat a few to feel effects.
If you are starting with fresh berries, you’ll have to work a little harder to remove the berries from the stems. But it’s still not difficult. A little tedious, perhaps, but not difficult.
Turn your dehydrator to the “fruit” setting, if there is one. Or, if you are going by a temperature, that would be around 125 to 135 degrees Fahrenheit.
Lay your berries out on the parchment paper, so they are not touching. Place the tray(s) into the dehydrator and turn it on.
Dehydrating your berries usually takes around 15-20 hours, give or take, depending on their moisture content. I let my berries go for eight hours, then I checked them. At this point they were oozing beautiful purple liquid…which you want.
When you see this, just give them a quick roll around so other parts of the berries are not touching the parchment. No need to be super careful…just a quick roll will do.
The reason why you’ll want to see this liquid is because you need to be sure your berries are all the way dry, and if there is any liquid left inside, or any moisture at all, that can spell mold and funk in a little while. NOT good.
Keep on dehydrating! Mine ended up taking around 15 hours for this batch. If you are working with the black elderberries (S. nigra), which grow back east, your berries may take a bit longer, as I believe they are slightly larger.
The ones we have here are (S. cerulea) and are a smaller species. Still just as medicinal! Just a bit smaller, and bluer because of the lovely yeast coating on them.
You’ll know your elderberries are fully dehydrated and ready for storage when they give a little “click” when dropped on the counter, and they won’t ooze any moisture or be sticky in any way.
You can store them away now, in a glass jar with an oxygen absorber….or you can take another step and turn your elderberries into powder!
NOTE: Are you wondering which dehydrator I love? I have the Excalibur 9 tray basic model. It’s not the low end or the high end one, just right in the middle, and it is perfect for all of our dehydrating and yogurt making needs.
I love it, and you will too!
To Make Your Elderberry Powder
Simply take your dried elderberries and put them in a dedicated spice or herb grinder. I have two grinders…one is only for coffee, and the other one is for herbs and spices. It’s not good to have the taste of coffee all over your herbs and spices, after all.
I also have a great mortar and pestle that would work fine, too.
Place your dried elderberries in the grinder, and grind until they are powdered to the consistency you like. Store the powder in an airtight jar with an oxygen absorber.
To Use Your Elderberry Powder
Elderberry powder is surprisingly versatile. You can sprinkle it in oatmeals, on salads, in smoothies, and any other way you wish. It has quite a tart taste that goes with many kinds of foods.
Besides being useful in your foods, elderberry powder is a champ for helping you stay well during cold and flu season, as well as helping you get better REALLY fast if you do happen to catch something.
You can tincture it, as a powerful cold and flu fighter, use it in your teas, or make many other herbal preparations with it.
You should check out my How to Get Started Using Herbs Series because you’ll learn all about herbal preparations and different ways to make them.
NOTE: You’ll want to start out with small amounts of elderberry powder, then increase as needed—-around a half teaspoon full at first, just to make sure they agree with you and nobody gets a tummy ache.
For children, start with an eighth to quarter teaspoon, or even just a few sprinkles. Because the powder isn’t prepared, it’s quite potent on its own. I recommend using the powder to make herbal preparations if you are planning to use it medicinally.
Here are general amounts for average size adults to use in common preparations: In tincture form, a typical dose is one to three full droppers. For the syrup, a tablespoon or so will do. You can find instructions for these elderberry wonders in the links above.
It’s such a blessing to be able to forage for my herbs then turn them into useful and helpful preparations for our health! It’s REALLY a blessing to not have to use over the counter medications any more….because we can make everything we need!
Elderberries are one of those plants you’ll want to be sure you can grow, forage from (depending on your area), or just purchase if you need to. They are literally some of the most useful herbs EVER for boosting your immune system.
There are a ton of herbal remedies on my blog, and here are a few you may be interested in:
Of course, the series, How to Get Started Using Herbs, is a great place to start.
And here are some on food preserving:
And, if you want to watch this process of making elderberry powder on YouTube, you can find that here:
And that’s all for elderberry powder! If you have questions or comments, please do leave them in the comments section! That way they help everyone!
By the way, if you would like to learn more about dehydrating fruits, vegetables, and all kinds of foods, take a look at my friend, Shelle Wells’ course on Dehydrating Made Easy. It’s really helpful, and you’ll learn about ALL kinds of things you can preserve and make with your dehydrator. You’ll get that food storage going fast!
And finally, if you would like to learn more about becoming a confident and competent home herbalist, and get rid of those nasty over the counter medications for once and for all, take a look at Healing Harvest Homestead School. I’ll be adding more courses, as time goes on, but The Confident Herbalist will get you going fast!
Hugs, Health, and Self Reliance,
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Disclaimer: I am not a medical doctor. In no manner, stated or implied, is any wording on any of my platforms, including this article, meant to treat, cure, diagnose, or prevent any illness or disease. Please be sure to talk with a medical doctor before using herbs and essential oils, and also to do your own research. These statements have not been evaluated by the FDA.