You can use elderberries fresh for recipes such as immune-boosting elderberry syrup, but if you have a ton of them, it’s great to learn how to dehydrate elderberries.

fresh elderberries on the stem, dried elderberries in a bowl and a bowl of elderberry juice on a table-How to dehydrate elderberries

Many people are avoiding chemical-based substances for more healthy lifestyles and part of their fitness journey. So medicinal herbs are becoming more popular. One of these plants is elderberry for boosting immunities. Elderberries should not be eaten fresh off the bush because the raw berries can cause stomach aches or diarrhea. However, they are excellent to consume when dried or cooked. Making elderberry syrup is our favorite way to use this herb, and is a medicine we try to make every winter.

I am not a doctor, I only try to get optimal nutrition from plants and food.

Fresh elderberries

We grow elderberries in our backyard. We live in Oklahoma and they are a native plant here. We are new to growing them, but have had our bushes for about 5 years. Elderberries are a superfood or food with optimal nutritional qualities. There are many superfoods you can grow at home. We use them to make elderberry syrup and elderberry gummies as well. We do buy organic dried elderberries online but we are working on having enough of our own to dehydrate them and use them year-round.

elderberries on the stems

Organic dried elderberries

To have organic dried elderberries, it’s a fairly simple process. If you start out growing your elderberries with organic methods or you buy fresh organic elderberries at the store. We don’t have them available in our area, but I don’t know what it’s like in other places. We don’t have access to a whole lot of healthy food where I live. That’s why my wife and I grow our own.

Start with only the ripe berries. The pin or white ones will make you sick. They need to be deep purple to black in color. You can just harvest them with a pair of scissors over a plastic bag or paper sack. If you aren’t going to start immediately, store them in the fridge for a day or two.

When you are ready to dehydrate them, gently remove them from the stems and wash them well. We like to wash ours before we remove the stems. Then lay them on a clean towel to dry. Once they are completely dry, you can start dehydrating them.

There are several methods to dehydrate elderberries. They are completely dry when you pinch them and they feel leathery like raisins. If they are still moist inside and soft, they aren’t done. Keep drying.

  1. Spread them evenly on a tray or baking sheet. Make sure it’s out of the dust and wind, but receives direct sunlight. Cover it with something clear such as a cloche or clear plastic lid. It must allow sunlight to pass through but be able to keep flies and other bugs off of your berries. Summer is the best time to do this. This method takes around 3 days but could be longer or shorter depending on the weather and sun intensity where you are.
  2. You can use a dehydrator. It usually takes 4-5 hours. Place your clean elderberries on a dehydrator treat and set it to 135. This is the fastest method.
  3. You can also use the oven. Preheat it for 3 minutes. Place your elderberries on a baking sheet in an even layer. Turn the oven off and place the tray inside for about 30 minutes. Take them out, preheat for 3 more minutes, and do it again until they are done. You don’t want to overheat them so make sure the oven isn’t over 135 degrees any time to place the berries in. If you have a gas oven with a pilot light, this process goes faster because it does produce a slight amount of heat to help the process along between heating. This process takes a day or more.
dehydrated elderberries on a heart shaped spoon with some cinnamon sticks

How to store dried elderberries

Make sure the berries are completely cooled and store the berries in a glass mason jar tightly sealed with a lid. Store it in a cool dry place away from light. They will last nearly a year this way. You can also grind the dehydrated berries up into a powder that you can sprinkle onto your yogurt or put in a smoothie and things like that.

If you choose to freeze your berries instead, they only retain all their nutrients for about 3 months, so you have to use them more quickly.

Elderberry recipes

There are many delicious and nutritious things you can make with elderberries besides syrup. Check out some of them here:

And if you have elderflowers from your plant, you can make elderflower lemonade. And try elderflower tea as well.