‘Harvest Celebration’ salutes Elderberry Syrup

Discover what Native Americans have always known about this native plant …

Rose High Bear, of Wisdom of the Elders greets guests after a tour of their Wisdom Garden.

Story and photos by David F. Ashton
At their headquarters on the steep east slope of Kelly Butte, Wisdom of the Elders invited students, supporters, and neighbors to their Wisdom Gardens Harvest Celebration, on the afternoon of September 21.

The organization’s leader, Rose High Bear, explained that the Wisdom Gardens festival was established in spring of 2012 to promote health and wellness in Portland’s Native American community, through horticultural education and healing – and to help restore traditional native food systems.

Guests enjoy a buffet of fresh natural foods during the celebration.

After her introductory remarks, High Bear invited guests to partake in a buffet; many of the dishes were prepared from food grown in their garden.

When it was time for the “Wisdom of the Elderberry” syrup-making demonstration, High Bear invited Dawn Lowe to the workstation, to demonstrate how elderberry syrup is made.

Dawn Lowe shows the elderberries, from which the syrup is made.

“My family was involved in making and using herbal stuff,” Lowe told East Portland News. “But I really started getting into it in my 20s – then stepped away from it. But, Rose High Bear got me back into it, and helped me discover my own heritage, and working with it.”

The best part of relearning her heritage, Lowe said, “Is that I believe this is going to help the planet to survive. The medicines are going to help people survive.”

Guests watch intently as the syrup-making demonstration continues.

The guests learned that Native Americans turned to black elderberries (sambucus nigra) as their “flu shot”, because they contain high levels of A, B, and C and they stimulate the immune system.

Lowe told them that she brings the elderberries to a boil, and then covers the pot and reduces the heat to a simmer for about 45 minutes to an hour, until the liquid has reduced by almost half. Then, when it is cool enough to handle, what’s left is poured through a strainer into a glass jar or bowl.

Making sure she extracts all of the juice, Dawn Lowe presses the elderberries in the strainer.

“Sometimes we also add cinnamon – a natural blood warmer,” Lowe explained.

Finally, she added honey to the syrup, and mixed it well.

Everyone was invited to sample the elderberry syrup, and all reported the taste as very agreeable.

“We hope you learn more about Wisdom of the Elders,” invited High Bear. “Our mission includes sustainability, multimedia education and race reconciliation.”

Learn more by visiting their website: CLICK HERE to open their home page.

© 2013 David F. Ashton ~ East Portland News

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