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Do not eat elderberries raw - there is a risk of poisoning
The first ripe black elderberries can currently be found on the side of the path, on the banks or in forest clearings. The berries are very healthy, but they must not be eaten raw because they contain a toxin that can lead to health problems.
Elderberries are also cultivated in commercial horticulture, but why buy when you can collect the wild grown fruits almost anywhere? From August you can find elder bushes in nature, which let the first ripe black berry umbels hang towards the ground. We strongly advise against eating the berries raw. Because they contain the toxin sambunigrin, which can lead to health problems.
Black elder is very healthy, but you shouldn't eat the fruits raw because they contain the toxin sambunigrin. (Image: leomalsam / fotolia.com)
Not to be confused with poisonous elderberry
As the Federal Center for Nutrition (BZfE) reports on its website, the gathering time for the wild elderberries extends well into September. The elder time ends at the latest when the leaves fall. By the way, one should speak botanically correct of "stone fruits on umbels", but colloquially we speak of "berries".
Anyone who collects elderberries in the wild should be familiar with the differences between black elder and poisonous dwarf elder. Actually, the latter is easy to recognize: the berry cones point upwards and not downwards like their big brother. In addition, the fruits stink miserably. Third in the league is also red elder, its fruits can be processed like black elder.
The experts explain how the fruits of the elder are harvested: the entire umbel and the stem are cut off with sharp scissors. Gloves should be worn. Harvest only completely colored umbels from black elderberry, reddish shimmering fruits are simply picked out.
Do not snack on raw fruits
The temptation to snack on the raw fruits must be resisted. Because the glycoside sambunigrin is contained in all parts of the elderberry plant. This toxin can lead to severe indigestion such as vomiting, diarrhea, abdominal pain and chills.
"Elderberries have to be heated to over 80 degrees for a short time in order to render the sambunigrin and other unhealthy substances harmless," explains Susanne Moritz, nutrition expert at the Bavarian Consumer Center in a message. According to the BZfE, red elderberries must still be carefully removed from the stone, because their kernels remain toxic even after heating.
The fruits can be kept in a cool box in the fridge for a day or two, but the faster they are processed, the better. They can be processed into juice, jelly, syrup and jam. Their aroma is sweet and sour and a bit tart, red elder has a distinctly bitter note. Elderberry soup and elderberries are also popular.
Rich in vitamins and minerals
As the BZfE explains, elderberries were considered "universal medicine" in the Middle Ages, and Sebastian Kneipp once said: "You should take your hat off every elderberry bush." Indeed, the fruits have a lot to offer, for example 18 to 25 milligrams of vitamin C and 1, 8 milligrams of iron per 100 grams. In addition, further fiber, vitamins and minerals, also secondary plant substances such as anthocyanins and tannins as well as essential oils with a high proportion of free fatty acids. (ad)
Author and source information
This text corresponds to the specifications of the medical literature, medical guidelines and current studies and has been checked by medical doctors.