Ripening Guide

Learn more about the many fruits of Toronto's Urban Orchard


Elderberries are popular for their unusual flavour in pies, jellies, and jams, and are sometimes used in winemaking. They hang in clusters from wood-like stems. Only the purplish-black elderberries are good for eating, and must always be cooked. Green or bright red elderberries are bitter, and possibly toxic, even when cooked.

  • August
  • September
  • October

How to tell when elderberries are ready to harvest: Ripe elderberries tend to be a deep purple to black colour. Underripe elderberries will not ripen after being harvested. Do not eat elderberries when green.

When to submit a pick request: We’ll need some advance notice to schedule your pick, so please submit a fruit pick request 3-5 days before your fruit is ready. A good time to do this is when an entire cluster of Elderberries is a purplish-black and not green, as this means the berries are ripe and ready for harvesting.

Picking tips: Elderberries grow in clusters. When picking elderberries, remove the cluster as a whole by snapping the stem at the base of the branch. Remove the berries from the stem by holding the cluster over a bowl with one hand and gently running your other hand down the cluster, separating each berry and allowing it to fall into the bowl below. One technique is to use a wide-tooth comb to separate the berries from the stem.

Eating tips: Elderberries are poisonous raw. They need to be cooked to make them edible. They have all sorts of cooked uses, though! Think pie, jelly, juice, and wine!

Storage tips: Elderberries should not be stored in containers at room temperature for more than 2-4 hours as this can cause them to spoil. They should generally be frozen or cooked immediately after picking them.

  • Have an Elderberry Tree? Register it now.
  • Want to pick Elderberries? Join our Picking Team.

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