Fellow foragers had warned me about elderberries. They cautioned me about the hours of tedious labor the dark purple berries demand. They told me how the stems, unripe red berries and even seeds can be slightly toxic as they contain a compound similar to cyanide, and how almost every stem must be painstakingly removed. I’m glad I didn’t listen to these warnings (or conveniently forgot them) as my grandfather and I struck out on a sunny early autumn afternoon to collect our elderberries from a ditch near the family cabin in northwestern Wisconsin. Visions of pies, jams and medicinal tinctures danced in my head, and the elderberry bush, laden with ripe berries seemed happy to oblige. When I pulled my octogenarian grandfather out of the bramble a half hour later, we had four paper bags full of berries. My grandfather wondered if this bounty would be enough for his jam and my various elderberry dreams.