Friday, September 08, 2006

Elderberry / Sambuco Season

We are currently in the thick of Sambuco production. Sambuco is the Latin name for Elderberry. I have found that when I am trying to find out what the name of local plants are the common name is usually the Latin name or a derivative of it. That has made it easier for me to figure out what it actually is. Although the species may be different here in Europe the general family is the main fact that I am usually after in my quest to learn about the local plants. Luckily, Fabrizio's parents are quite knowledgeable about the local and are helpful in helping me learn about all the wonderful goodness that the woods here have to offer. Not only are they a great resource of learning names, but they know where to find things and when they will be in their height of their season. Wild, thyme, bay laurel, wild asparagus, oregano and the much prized porcini mushrooms are just a small sample of the woods bounty. Their 40 years of living here in Serre Marchetto is very helpful to me as a relative newcomer. I of course have introduced new uses for familiar plants to them as well.

In the spring time I love to gather Elderberry florets for making Sambuco syrup that makes a lovely refreshing spring spritzer or lemonade mixed with sparkling water and a handy simple syrup to add to a fast fresh fruit salad to sweeten it and give it that subtle under current of flavor that is hard to guess what it is. The florets make decadent fritters with a touch of maple syrup that comes out of my small horde of Americana treasures for a special springtime treat. But I digress, as now it's time to not only make preserves in the time honored fashion of no "sure gel", but elderberry pie to melt in the mouth and stain everything in sight. We make jams, preserves, and marmalades the old fashioned way of just cooking the fruit down, adding sugar, cooking till it sets, and voila, the goodness of mother nature's gift, as natural as it gets.

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