Elderberries are flowering now across the Carolinas Piedmont, and their lacy, white flowers are easily spotted along highways, especially in wet ditches.
The flowers soon will be followed by dark-purple berries which, while rank-tasting when raw, make rich preserves when cooked. Even the blossoms can be eaten: Trimmed flower heads, cleaned of insects, can be dipped in a tempura-style batter and fried, then dusted with cinnamon and sugar.
But you don’t have to be a forager to enjoy elderberries. Many native-plants gardeners appreciate them for the birds they draw to a naturalized garden setting. Robins, bluebirds, catbirds, cedar waxwings and woodpeckers all enjoy the berries, said Carol Buie-Jackson, owner of Birdhouse on the Greenway in south Charlotte.
“They’re great bog plants so if you have an area in your yard that stays wet they’re wonderful to put in that space because they like wet feet,” she said. “Not only are the berries feeding a lot of birds and other wildlife (but) it’s easy, easy easy to grow. It will multiply. It’s a very handsome plant whenever it blooms because it’s got that huge umbrella of white blossoms.” - Amber Veverka