Elder (Sambucus) belongs to the musk herb family. The black elder ( Sambucus nigra ), which is common in Central Europe , can be processed into a wide variety of specialities. Jellies, syrup and tea can be prepared from its flowers, while juices, liqueurs and tasty jams are made from the berries. When is elderberry harvest time? What must be considered when harvesting? This article answers these and other questions.

Healthy Superfood

Elderberry is a plant that has become indispensable in natural medicine. Elderberry juice is considered a remedy for colds, both hot and cold. No wonder, since the berries have more vitamin C than most other fruits. They also convince with a high content of important B vitamins, essential oils and minerals.

However, the healthy effect refers exclusively to the ripe and processed fruits. Raw black and red elderberries contain toxins that can lead to impairments, especially in sensitive or weakened people.

By the way, the black elder is also known as the lilac berry bush in northern Germany. In southern Germany and Austria it is known as Holler or in Switzerland as Holder. Numerous children’s games, children’s songs and stories are entwined around the bush with the black berries.

Harvest time of elderberries

When the elderberries, which are botanically correct not a berry but a stone fruit, are ripe, varies from region to region.

In June and July, the otherwise inconspicuous bush impresses with the cream-colored flowers, which are composed of countless small starry flowers. The first fruits appear at the end of July. They are initially green, then red, becoming larger, plumper and turning a deep purple to black color. Depending on the weather and regional conditions, the elderberries are ready for harvest in August.

You can recognize the ripeness and the beginning of the harvest season of elderberries by the following characteristics:

  • deep dark violet or blue berries in black and blue elder
  • no reddish-brown single berries visible
  • intensely red colored berries in the case of the red or grape elder
  • no greenish shimmering berries visible
  • plump berry skin


Harvesting the purple mini berries is not easy. The berries do not keep for long and the juice leaves unsightly stains on the skin or clothing. We will show you how the elderberry harvest succeeds.

equipment for harvesting

Prepare the following tools to harvest the ripe elderberries:

  • sharp knife
  • Fork or a wide-toothed comb
  • Harvest vessel lined with plastic wrap
  • disposable gloves

Attention, we recommend the use of gloves when harvesting the berries, not only to prevent discolouration of the hands, but also to protect against the toxic components of the plant parts of the elderberry. Disposable gloves are very suitable due to their high flexibility.

harvesting technique

The following harvesting technique has proven itself over generations:

  1. Cut off the entire cone with a sharp knife
  2. remove unripe and damaged elderberries
    3. bring the harvest into the kitchen
    4. cover the work surface with foil
    5. wash the elderberry umbels thoroughly under clear water
    6. scrape off the berries using a fork or a wide-toothed comb
    7. due to the limited shelf life of the berries immediately begin processing
Tip: If you don’t have the opportunity to start processing immediately after harvest, you can freeze the berries perfectly and process them at a convenient time. Freezing the whole cones is recommended. The elderberries are much easier to peel off when frozen.

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