Elder trees are prevalent across most of the Northern Hemisphere, but are suited for most climates in the world. Mexican Elderberry (Sambucus nigra L. ssp. Caerulea) is native to our region in Mediterranean Southern California. The trees are commonly found in wild areas and grow in outlying unirrigated parts of our land. They’ve displayed a tenacity to withstand California’s extreme drought conditions.
For many years, my primary relationship with the elder tree was to its wonderfully fragrant flowers, which bloom as early as March in our region. They can be gathered used fresh or dry to make cordials or help heal from colds and coughs. However, this past year I’ve developed a relationship with the berries, which have a complex, tart sour flavor. It’s my suspicion that the irrigation and fertility we have given to our trees has made the cultivated berries more palatable than the wild ones. I’ve made lot of thick teas and added no honey and discovered a natural, subtle sweetness to the berries. Another pleasant combination I identified is a mixture of 75% yerba mate and 25% percent mixture of dried elderberries and caramel rooibos. -Quin
Richo Cech over at Horizon Herbs provides the following guidance for starting Elder from seed:
"Soak berries overnight, smash them, and remove the seeds. This can be done manually (smash and wash in a tea strainer) or by flotation… Sow these (now moist) seeds in outdoor conditions, in pots or flats, and expect germination in the spring."
Fall sowings of the soaked seeds would seem to make the most sense.