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White elderberries grow on low bushes that are more akin to ferns rather than large mature trees. Rarely taller than two meters, the small leafy plants bloom in the spring. Their delicate white flowers look much like the berries themselves as they never fully uncurl and remain almost spherical in shape. The small berries grow in loose clusters and are approximately 5 millimeters in diameter. Late in the summer, they ripen to a pale translucent yellow and very similar to currants or gooseberries. White elderberries are juicy and somewhat astringent, but sweeter than the black or blue varieties. They have a tart flavor profile with notes of gooseberry, white currant and an herbal grassy finish.
White elderberries are available late summer through fall.
The White elderberry plant is a small deciduous shrub within the Adoxaceae family and botanically classified as Sambucus gaudichaudiana. It is most often found in its native land of Australia where it is also known as Australian Elder or White Eldergreen. Though other elderberry species are usually regarded as trees, the White variety is more of a small perennial bush that dies away in the fall and sprouts anew each spring. It is rarely found growing naturally in conjunction with the red, blue or black varieties.
White elderberries are a good source of vitamins A and C.
White elderberries are far less astringent and offer a richer sugar content than the black or blue variety. They may be used similarly as their colored counterparts, however, they do not deliver the same robust flavor and are therefore more often found in sweet applications. The obvious visual difference, and perhaps considered a benefit, is that they do not impart any pigment. Juice from the berries can be cooked down into a sweetened syrup. The syrup may be used in beverages, poured over pancakes, frozen in ice creams or combined with pectin for jelly. Complimentary flavors include, fresh bramble berries, fresh and cooked stone fruits, roasted nuts, vanilla, white wines, tawny ports, lavender and citrus fruits.
Unlike other elderberry varieties which are native to North America, the White elderberry is endemic to Australia. It can be found growing in the shady undergrowth of moist forests usually near streams. They are abundant fruit producers and as the branches grow heavy with ripe fruit, the berries quickly fall to the ground. The plant is then easily propagated by seed, but may also spread by means of its rhizomatous rootstock.