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Elderberry Capers

If you are anything like me, waiting for fruit to ripen can seem like an age. However, elderberries offer the opportunity to create tasty capers while they are still green

Green elderberries can be turned into tasty capers
Green elderberries can be turned into tasty capers

When elderberries are still green, but swollen to a decent size - usually around early to mid-August - that's when I'll start picking them to make forager's capers.

It must be remembered that, among other potentially harmful chemicals, elderberries contain cyanogenic glycocides, such as amygdalin and sambunigrin, as well as alkaloids like sambucine. Fortunately, the processing in this recipe will break down these compounds. It is not advised to eat raw elderberries.


250g green elderberries

250ml water

50g salt

250ml white wine vinegar

75g sugar


1. Using the tines of a fork, remove the green berries from their stems - you may need to remove the smaller stems by hand

2. Rinse the berries thoroughly and set aside to drain

3. Mix the salt and water together and stir vigorously until the salt has disolved

4. Put the berries into a glass or plastic container (no metal) and pour the salt solution over them. Cover the container with a clean cloth or kitchen roll and secure with a band or ribbon. Set aside at room temperature for three days to ferment

Fermentation taking place - note the bubbles on top of the liquid
Fermentation taking place - note the bubbles on top of the liquid. The berries will turn a darker, less bright green

5. Drain the salt water from the berries and set aside to drain

6. Sterilise a pickling jar (if using a screw-top jar, use parchment paper to make sure the vinegar does not touch the lid)

7. Transfer the berries into the hot sterile jar

8. Put the sugar and vinegar in a pan and bring to the boil

9. Take off the heat and pour over the berries in the jar to about 1/2inch from the top of the jar

10. Complete by canning the jar and leave for at least two weeks, preferably a few months

The finished product - elderberry capers
The finished product - elderberry capers

Discover more wild edibles and recipes on a foraging course

Always stay safe when foraging. You need to be 100% sure of your identification, 100% sure that your foraged item is edible, and 100% sure that you are not allergic to it (it is good practice to always try a small amount of any new food you are consuming). If in doubt, leave it out!


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