Roadside bounty in the Fall

montana elderberry, recipe, montana living

Harvesting elderberry

By David Reese/Montana Living

There is a bounty alongside Montana roadways this time of year.

In my work as a civil law journalist, every month I make my rounds to District courthouses in Northwest Montana. In the seven years that I’ve been doing law research in our district courts, I’ve developed a nice route of bountiful flavors, available only in the fall.

And this last trip to Sanders County District Court in Thompson Falls, Montana, I scored in my usual locations.

This time of year you can find abundant chokecherry, elderberry, apple, and a few remnant sarvis berry along the highways. But elderberry is my favorite fall bounty. Growing up in Alberton, Montana, I would pull the heavy, grey bunches of fruit down and have a nice snack while the autumn leaves turned color.

Last week on my trip to Thompson Falls, I backed up my Tahoe under the big, drooping elderberry bush, climbed up on the roof and went to work. It appeared that a bear or another berry picker had gotten the low-hanging fruit.

But up high I found paydirt, and brought home about 12 pounds of fresh elderberry.

Now as you may know, elderberry is the new “wonder” fruit that health fanatics are extolling the virtues of.

I don’t know, I just like making jams and juices out of the stuff, and I do think it boosts my immune system.

Here are a couple ideas of what to do with elderberries.

Elderberry Tapenade

Mix two cups elderberry with a quarter cup sugar. Heat mixture on stove to gentle boil. Add a dash of ginger, allspice, nutmeg, and a teaspoon of lemon juice.

Harvesting elderberry on Montana roadsides

Cook until desired thickness.

Spread on gouda cheese and a cracker, and enjoy.

Elderberry Juice

Boil elderberry fruit in a stock pot on stovetop, adding water to barely cover the berries. Simmer for an hour, let cool, then strain into jars.

Add lemon juice and sugar to taste, or mix the concentrate with your favorite sparkling water.


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