Elderberry and nectarine crisp


IMG_4191 - editedWebApologies for the  (relative!)  brevity of this post, but I am writing in the middle of the night, before departing for Oktoberfest, and I need some sleep…

I am always envious of other food bloggers who talk abtou their foraging expeditions.  Some go lookign for berries, others pick up apples from neighbouring trees, and still others go mushrooming. 

I, on the other hand, am not a natural forager.

Growing up in South Africa might have something to do with it.  There are quite a few poisonous things that we came across as children – the ubiquitous seringa berries, oleanders on every street corner, and poinsettas in every garden.  So although generalyl I think may parents may have been a little over-cautious with us, they probably had reason to put the fear of God into us about found food.  In fact, I remember when we were very little that my mom would say to us in Afrikaans optelgoed is jakkalspiepie (roughly translated as "things you pick up are jackal-pee".  Nice.

So you could say that I came to the UK as a foraging virgin. I would not have been able to tell the difference between a blackberry or a slow-and-painful-death-poisonberry.  And then, on a trip to the Norfolk Broads, a wonderful thing happened.  I discovered that there were blackberries growingin hedges and that you could pick them, and eat them… and live to tell the tale!  Who knew?  And so I became a fairly avid picker of blackberries and I firmly believe they taste sweeter the more obscure the location of the picking.  But until recently, that was abtou all I trusted myself to pick.

This spring, I started taking note of the sweet-smelling white blossoms on my walk to the station each morning.  They appeared in masses and en masse they formed a surprisingly flat flower head.  And when a fellow-blogger posted something about elderflower wine plus a pic, I realised that they were elderflowers!  So I watched them bloom, and the blooms becoming tiny green berries, and recently the berries have turned a purply-black and hang in heavy bunches, tempting the greedy wood pigeons.

But I have not seen a single person picking them.  Maybe they don't know what they are.IMG_4186 - editedweb   Maybe, like me, they fear for their lives.  Who knows.  In any event, last Sunday I dragged Nick off at dusk with a bowl and a pair of secateurs and we snipped abotu 6 big bunches of the berries.

The most common elderberries that we see in England by roadsides or along towpaths are the blue-black fruit of the Sambucus nigra or elderberry bush/tree.  The fruits are very popular with birds and wildlife, and the berries can be quite delicious when cooked in a variety of ways, but beware:  the leaves, twigs and unripe berries contain a toxin (sambunigrin) and should not be eaten as they can cause diarrhoea and vomiting.  In fact, it has been suggested that even the ripe berries should only be eaten cooked, rather than raw because of the potential effects of the sambunigrin.  (So maybe my parents had a point after all!)

That said, elderberries are packed with good stuff.  They are high in potassium and an excellent source of Vitamin C, as well as being high in anthocyanins, powerful antioxidants that are responsible for their attractive deep purple/red colouring.  I lived on the edge and tried a couple raw, and they weren't nearly as tart as I'd expected – more along the lines of properly ripe blackberries, only the size of cultured pearls. 

My six bunches were destined to meet up with two small and slightly wrinkly nectarines that had been forgotten in the fridge, and be turned into one of the nicest and most vividly-coloured crisps I have had in ages.  If there are elderberries about in your neighbourhood, I suggest you grab them while you can as they won't be around much longer, what with the voracious pigeons.  Take it from me - it's a great feeling to be eating something that you found yourself, and that generated zero food miles :)

ELDERBERRY AND NECTARINE CRISP (serves 2 greedy people)


4-6 good sized bunched of RIPE elderberries
2 small (or 1 large) nectarines
2 Tpsb caster sugar
50g wholewheat flour
50g melted butter
50g soft brown sugar
50g rolled oats
1/2 tsp cornstarch


Wash the elderberries and remove all bugs (I soaked mine in water in my salad spinner forIMG_4193 - editedWeb abotu 10 mins until they all swam to the surface). Carefully remove the berries from the stems – I found a fork worked pretty well, raked downwards through the bunches.

Cut the nectarines into chunks and scatter on the base of an ovenproof dish, then scatter the berries on top.  Scattter the caster sugar and cornstarch evenly over the top.

Mix all the topping ingredients together and spread loosely over the fruit.  Bake in a pre-heated oven at 180C for about 25 minutes or until the fruit is bubbling.  Serve warm with a blob or clotted cream.

Make sure you also check out the wonderful elderberry jelly that Boots in the Oven made recently!

Whb_2_yrs_2I am submitting this recipe to Zorra of Kochtopf who is this weekend's hostess with the mostest for Kalyn's weekly event Weekend Herb Blogging.  Do check her site for the roundup later this week!

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  1. says

    LOL. My parent was the same. They used to say ” No darling, you can’t eat those berries, they are snakes food”. You know, we don’t have jackals, that’s why!
    Never had Elderberry before, I remember someone mentioned there are many of these trees growing in my neighborhood. I wonder if I should try it. Anyway, ELDERBERRY AND NECTARINE CRISP will work for me, seems very straight forward recipe.
    Enjoy your Oktoberfest!

  2. says

    And what, dear heart, do you suggest we do here in South Africa?? Your recipe looks heavenly and I really neeeeeeeed to have some!!!|
    Considering what we are going through right now, we need special care and attention from our favourite London foodie!!

  3. says

    I had no idea that you could eat elderberries as well as elderflowers! They do sound quite delicious, though.
    Very sexy looking pudding, too! I’ll have to try it next year after I’m shown our local elderflower patch :)

  4. says

    Have fun at Octoberfest. Have a couple of beers for me too!! Love the crisp & am green with envy at these elderberries! Beautiful…can imagine how wonderful this must have tasted. YUM!!

  5. says

    Oh, how lovely! I actually have an Elderflower tree, but we trimmed it so much last year that it didn’t flower at all this year. And it’s super-easily bug infested, too.. but I have high hopes for next year. :) Have fun at Octoberfest! :)

  6. says

    We used to eat elderberries as kids in Somerset – they stain your mouth ands face a wnderful color – I don’t think we ever gor diarrhoea from them although we often ate plenty! My aunt made elderflower champagne – delicious. We used the leaves to ward off flies tucking them into the pony’s head band to stop the flies from bothering it too much when we went riding.
    I wonder if the berries would make a good jam? You’ll have to let me know when you get back from Oktoberfest – have fun!

  7. says

    Oh I am very familiar with the elderberry – and so are my toes! My father used to make wine with them when I was a child and I have fond memories of afternoons spent picking and then squishing elderberries in the bath with my feet!

  8. says

    we’ve grown up on elderberries, all hand-picked. a very popular berry in austria and we make syrup and fruit stews from it (mainly). and as a (hopefully) interesting tidnid from a budding herbalist, the homeopathic remedy made from elderberry (sambucus nigra) is the best remedy for infant colds in the first 6 months – whenever your baby had the sniffles and can’t nurse through a blocked nose, sambuccus is good to have at home!

  9. says

    While I would be loathe to try my novice hand at mushrooms (too risky), I might have a go at berries if I carefully research. Lovely crisp. Have a swell time in Munich. My brother spent two years in Bavaria w/ the troops. Swears by Oktoberfest and Christmas in Nuremberg.

  10. says

    I am glad to hear you have got over your anxiety about foraging (might be useful at oktoberfest)
    Your post made me think about a tree in our garden that I was told was poisonous when quite young – I thought if I even touched it I might die and was very scared of it – maybe it is why I am wary of foraging too!

  11. says

    You are right, the color is just awesome…… I grew up in Ceres were found fruit and pine nuts was an everyday activity. I still believe that there is nothing better than a golden delicious apple that ripened on the tree. I hope you had a blast at the fest!

  12. says

    the satisfaction of cooking with something you picked yourself is quite another thing. now, trust you to put two and two together and recognise this as an elderberry. i’d need someone to post a board on the plant: “i am an elderberry. i am not toxic. pick me.”
    i read this story about some soldiers who used oleander twigs as skewers to barbecue meat in the wild, as they would use rosemary twigs, and how they got really sick.

  13. Browniegirl says

    OH WOW!!! That looks totally amazing Jeanne. I am longing so for some of this now…..but WHERE to get those darn elderberries?????? xxx

  14. says

    I have never had elderberries but they look delicious baked in that crisp! Want to know the difference between a crisp, a crumble, and a cobbler? I wrote an article about it on my blog. Feel free to add this recipe!