Eating Seasonally: Prepare for Flu Season now!

Elderberries are in season on the Pacific NW and may be in your area as well! If, like me, you’re too sensitive to traces and cross contamination to tolerate any of the prepackaged elderberry syrups or prepackaged dried elderberries, now is the time to stock up on the wild foraged stuff and freeze or dehydrate to make into syrup for the flu season. Not familiar with elderberries and why I’d want them for the winter?

Where to Get Them

What we have growing wild and native in the area is blue elderberry. There may be some folks growing black elderberry in the area, but I haven’t found them. Let me know if you know of any in the Western Washington area or even down in to Oregon. If you live outside of the Pacific NW, you may have a different species available to you. The most common species seems to be American Elder, which has a strong folk tradition of medicinal use, but please do your own research and don’t just go taking herbs on my say so.

Only black elderberry (sambucus nigra) has been officially studied for its medicinal effects but I am taking a chance on blue elderberry being as good for you since it’s what I have access to. There’s at least enough folk wisdom referenced about the use of blue elderberry for medicinal purposes to make me feel comfortable doing so. Foraged and Found Edibles at the Seattle Farmer’s market has them right now and hopefully will for a couple more weeks. I emailed ahead and asked them for 13lbs to pick up at the market and he had a box just all prepped for me to pick up when I arrived.

How to Process Elderberries

Note that the stems and unripe berries are toxic, so you will want to carefully pick over your berries and remove those. What I do is wash them and place them still on the stems on baking sheets in my freezer. Then when they’re frozen I take a fork and pull the berries off the stems and remove as many of the stems as I can. I flash freeze again since the berries have melted a bit while I do that, then pick over to get the last of the stems and green berries out and then put into quart bags to freeze. Some stems still make it into the bags so I will rinse them and sift yet again before using.

You could also dehydrate the berries. I just chose to freeze mine.

How to Use and How Much to Store

Here is the recipe I use to make elderberry syrup. 1 cup of berries should make 1.5 cup sof syrup, and 1.5 cups of syrup will make about 5-6 days of doses for one person at the recommended 1 tsp every 2-3 hours.  My 13 lbs of berries made about 8.5 quarts without the stems so that’s about 170 days of flu-level elderberry syrup doses, give or take. Should be plenty for two for the winter, heheh.

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Corn Free Probiotics: Home Ferments

As I’ve mentioned before, you won’t find a corn-free commercial probiotic supplement. If you do, I would LOVE to hear about it, but so far I have not.

Now, that does not mean that you can’t have probiotics. You can make your own. People always look at me funny when I say that. I think it’s because they don’t understand what probiotics are. They are microorganisms that live in your gut. Yes, they are little bugs, but the good kind. I know people think that because the  usual probiotic supplement comes in a pill format it must be dead and sterile, but actually they’re just  hella lab-processed versions of something you can *totally* do yourself, and control the ingredients on.

Lots of people are concerned about the safety of home ferments, and you do need to exercise basic caution. You  need to use clean equipment and follow instructions until you really understand what you are doing. If you  have a mold problem in your home, meaning lots of pesky aspergillus spores floating around, you probably want to reconsider wild fermentation. Definitely do your own research on safety in home ferments, but my reading tells me that that home ferments are pretty safe.

Here’s the round-up of probiotic foods and beverages you can make yourself at home.  This is *not* a how-to post- you can find all kinds of videos and blog posts about how to actually make these ferments all over the internet. This is just a rundown of the options out there to give you an idea of what might work for you and what you are interested in researching.

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Why you won’t find a corn-free commercial probiotic supplement.

Example ingredients list for a high-qulity probiotics:

Lactobacillus species
5.0+ billion CFUs*

Lactobacillus rhamnosus

Lactobacillus casei

Lactobacillus paracasei

Lactobacillus gasseri

Lactobacillus salivarius

Bifidobacterium species
5.0+ billion CFUs

Bifidobacterium bifidum

Bifidobacterium longum

Bifidobacterium breve

Bifidobacterium infantis

Bifidobacterium lactis

Other Ingredients: None.

All of those ingredients are microorganisms. That’s what probiotics *are*, by definition: beneficial bacteria. Organisms need to eat something, which means sugar, and that usually means glucose, either exclusively from corn or from mixed sources that could be corn. If there is a probiotic out there that is grown on a corn-free medium, I would LOVE to know about it.

 

Your best bet is to make your own probiotics, if you can tolerate the ingredients required. 

But to my understanding, if you for some reason need to take a probiotic supplement rather than making your own, the best you can do is no inactive ingredients, that way the only corn you’re getting is what the probiotics ate, and whatever wasn’t filtered out from the medium when they were being harvested. 

My thinking on it is that if you are going to be getting some corn exposure, you’d best pick the highest quality, most pure supplement out there, so you’re getting the most benefit in return.

Edited 2012-04-12: Apparently there are some probiotics that are grown on inulin, a sugar from chicory, that may be corn free. I have yet to contact any of these companies to be positive that they always uses only inulin and never add corn glucose, but that sounds hopeful.

Update 2013-05-09: I had my naturopath look into two products that seemed promising:
http://www.klaire.com/prod/proddetail.asp?id=V084-02

http://kirkmanlabs.com/ProductKirkman/702/1/Acidophilus%20Probiotic%20Powder%20-%20Hypoallergenic/

I am struggling to remember exactly what she told me, but it wasn’t promising. I think she said Klaire wouldn’t tell her what it was grown on, just said “no corn protein” over and over, which basically means corn. I think Kirkman said microrystalline cellulose, but that doesn’t sound right as does that really have enough sugar in it to feed a probiotic beastie? They also said it is not possible to grow probiotics only on inulin, something else is required.

Based on that I decided to stick with the Gutpro becuase I already have it, it is higher quality than the other options, and the other options don’t sound safer.