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Elderberries are one of the most beneficial berries out there in our local wilderness. They are a strong antioxidant and both the flowers and the berries can be used to improve our health and prevent the flu. This one is a good one to learn about and to harvest each year. We have both red and blue elderberries in Utah and both are valuable and edible. Some have stated they have stomach issues when eating a lot of the red berry seeds but I have not yet experienced any such symptom.

Elderberry tree above Silver Lake Flats in American Fork canyon.
How to identify:
One of the easiest ways to ID the elderberry for certain is to cut open a branch and look for the pith in the center. All Elderberry trees will have this soft pith in the center of the branches. When you think you are looking at an elderberry cut one open and you will be able to identify it for certain. There are a couple other identifying traits you should look for as well.
Compound leaves
Elderberry trees have compound leaves with leaflets. this is another easy way to identify this plant.
Blossom and berry umbel
Finally let's look at the blossom and berry umbel. This is another distinction of the elderberry tree. While it is not the only tree that offers it's berries this way, it is one more identifier that will help.

Elderberry tincture is made from the flowers and you might want to limit how many of those you pick. Perhaps one to two inflorescences (groups of flowers) because the berries come from the flowers later on so we don't want to deplete a tree. Taking a few from each tree will help the tree produce larger fruit with those that are left and leaving plenty on the tree will allow other foragers more to forage later on as well. 

When harvesting the berries, you can take all that are ripe. Harvesting berries does not harm the tree but you do want to make sure the berries you harvest are ripe. Unripe berries will cause you indigestion and will not give the health benefits desired and of course any unripe berries that are picked are not available for later foragers.

Elderberry is one of my favorites because of it's flu fighting health benefits. It is a great fruit to harvest at the end of the year. 

When we do an elderberry harvest I will show how to clearly ID the plant in the field, How to tell for certain the berries are ripe and you can generally expect to harvest enough to create a good amount of syrup for the season.