Elderberry In New Zealand - Where You Can Find It And How To Harvest It

Late summer is when we wild harvest our elderberries (Sambucus nigra) in New Zealand. The wonderful thing about wild harvesting is that you get to see the magic of nature at work first-hand.

In March, the seasons start to change, and so does your susceptibility to sickness. But nature has got your back. Elderberry does wonders for supporting a robust immune response and just so happens to become ripe when you need it most.

Where to find elderberry in New Zealand

Elderberry is common in many parts of New Zealand. You may recognise elderberry trees around your area, whether in wild places or simply in your neighbour's backyard. They are much more common in the South Island and are considered a noxious weed.

We wild harvest elderberries from the Taieri plains, which are just on the outskirts of Dunedin and slightly more sheltered from the coastal conditions. This is a hot spot for wild elderberry trees! Harvesting elderberries is a time-consuming job - selectively picking, de-stemming, then processing and production but it is so worth it for the huge benefits this plant gives us.

If you don't live in Dunedin, a great way to find elderberries is by checking iNaturalistEnter 'Sambucus nigra' into the search bar and click on the 'map' view; this way, you can view sightings all throughout New Zealand. Remember if you see one tree, there's probably more nearby as they spread easily.


The benefits of elderberry

The elder tree has been used across many countries traditionally for centuries. It has been used in parts of Asia, all through Europe, and also in Africa and America. Part of the reason it is so popular is due to its massive antiviral effect. It is also high in antioxidants due to its deep purple colour and its anthocyanin properties. 


Elderberry has been used to help with winter ills and chills and symptoms of common cold. It helps protect the respiratory tract from infections and supports the body’s immunity. We love this berry and use it in our Immunity Tonic as well as in our Elderberry Switchel.


Helping support a robust immune system

Elder is an amazing tree that naturally supports you throughout the whole year. In the summer, the elderflower helps with traditional hay fever symptoms, and in the winter, the elderberries are used as a preventative against ills and chills. Elderberries are rich in flavonoids, antioxidants, and vitamins A and C and have been well-researched for their antiviral actions.

Zakey-Rones (et al. 2004) ran a clinical trial using oral elderberry syrup for treating influenza A and B infections. Symptoms were relieved on average 4 days earlier, and the use of rescue medication was significantly less in those receiving elderberry extract compared with placebo. They concluded that elderberry extract seems to ‘offer an efficient, safe, and cost-effective treatment for influenza.’ You can read about this study here.


Your nose and throat are part of your first line of defence. Often, if you ingest or breathe in a germ, your body can try and get rid of it via coughing, when you blow your nose or in your saliva. If it does settle in or get further into your body that is when the bigger immune system response happens.

Research has shown that taking elderberry preventatively helps prevent viruses from attaching to the cells of the nose and throat, which stops it settling in and allows your body to digest or expel the virus without your body becoming infected. Smart huh!

                       🌿Related3 Things You Need To Know About Post Viral Inflammation


When are elderberries ready to pick?

Typically, elderberry is ready to harvest in late New Zealand summer, and we often see an abundance of elderberry growing on the roadside. However, we never wild harvest close to roads as road pollution can contaminate the berries. But seeing all the berries is still pretty magical.


How to harvest elderberries

When harvesting elderberries, look for deep purple berries. They grow together in a cluster, so it is important that all the berries are ripe, as the green ones can be toxic. Pick them before the birds get to them (and if you are not able to process them straight away you can freeze them). The berries are amazing, but you cannot eat them fresh; they must be cooked before use, as in their fresh form, they do hold some toxins.

A great way to process elderberries is to rub a cluster of berries over a cooling rack. But if you only have a small amount of berries to process, then using your fingers or a fork to remove them is perfectly fine.



  • Posted on by Hope Lagden
    I’m so excited to harvest and didn’t realise they could be frozen, such a huge bonus as all my berries will be ready at various times. So nervous to get creating but so ready to experiment 🥰
  • Posted on by Celia Secret
    Hi Thankyou so much for sharing your knowledge and helping get elderberry Goodness out there 👌I reckon we should plant them everywhere in NZ! 🤗 i remember them, growing up in Christchuch. Thy were once more valued and people purposely planted them for hedge row for easy harvest of the fruit, shelter and medication for the living stock.

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