In recent years there have been a lot of health articles written about the benefits of blueberries and blackberries. Both are loaded with antioxidants. There has also been much made about the Mideastern pomegranate, the Brazilian acai, and the goji berry from the Himalayas. Now a study has begun at the University of Missouri about the importance of elderberries.
Elderberries grow throughout North America, Europe and North Africa. For centuries, elderberries have been used for many folk remedies. Many of these exotic fruits have been known for their vitamins and antioxidants that are good for the body. Now it appears, that elderberries are the same.
Elderberries are mainly used for jams, jellies, pies, juice and of course wine. On some farms, they are grown wild and cultivated. With their recent rise in popularity, they have become a profitable agricultural business.
The University of Missouri has been doing studies, on the nutritional value of elderberries for the past twelve years. The past few years, the university has been running classes on how to farm, produce and use elderberries. At first classes would have only about half a dozen individuals. This past summer that number rose to over 100.
The leaves and stems of the elderberry plant are toxic. However, the small purple fruit has been found to boost immunity, lower cholesterol and have some anti-viral properties.
Farmers have been able to use machinery to plant 1000 plants 1000 plants per hour. It takes 2000 berries to make one pound. It takes twenty pounds to make just one gallon of juice. There are some farms that can produce 8,000 pounds per square acre.
Since the elderberries are so small, picking them requires care. One easy way is to use a large hair comb. Just run it through the stem and guide the berries into your bucket. This is also the quickest way by hand. Quickly freezing them keeps the berry full in roundness, until you are ready to put them to use. Zip-lock bags work great.
Several things to do as you do this process is to sort red from purple berries. You also need to remove insects like small stink bugs from the berries. Berries will thaw quickly and they can be washed, while they are still frozen. This helps to prevent losing juice from the berry.
The farming process is beginning to grow quickly in certain areas of the country. Elderberries could be the new health fruit, that could benefit people both financially and healthfully.
Georgina Gustin, www.stltoday