Adventures in Elderberry

I first became familiar with Elderberry when my wife started buying Elderberry Gummies from our local health food store. Our son had just started taking vitamins and she had learned that Elderberry Gummies were good for boosting the immune system. These gummies boasted some amazing health benefits, so I started to do a little research of my own. I had no idea that this quest would lead us to search for Elderberries across West Virginia during the spring of 2020 and eventually to creating a small batch, Elderberry Syrup of our own.

I heard of an Elderberry in my youth, but I had no idea what they looked like or that they naturally grew in Appalachia. My education on the Elderberry started with listening to podcasts, reading research articles, and calling experts about this topic. I was fortunate to speak with Terry Durham from River Hills Harvest in Missouri. Terry has been foraging and growing Elderberries for decades and he was extremely helpful in speaking with me about the potential of American Elderberry in the Mountain State in both wild-grown and cultivated venues. With this new information, my family and I set out to locate and identify wild growing Elderberry in West Virginia. On weekends, we loaded up our RV and started visiting state parks looking for wild growing Elderberry. To our amazement, we did not need to look far to see wild Elderberry flourishing on the sides of hills and on the sides of roads. The beautiful white flowers in the spring are easy to spot and we found ourselves identifying Elderberry every few miles as we crisscrossed our state.

As we visited Davis, WV, and surrounding areas we noticed one small farm that had an abundance of Elderberry growing on their land. We thought this must be our first example of a farmer cultivating Elderberry in this region, but we were very surprised to learn these were not cultivated bushes but wild growing Elderberries. In amazement, we stopped and spoke with the farmer and his family about potentially paying for the opportunity to harvest some of these berries. They agreed and we waited patiently until the end of summer for the berries to reach a deep purple to begin our harvest.

When the berries were on the verge of falling off the bush, our family started picking. This fun weekend activity provided a nice escape during Covid and allowed every member to participate in the Elderberry Harvest. We created our WV Harvest Small Batch Wild Elderberry Syrup from these berries and we have been thrilled with the reception of this product. As we look to the potential of Elderberry in Appalachia, the sky is the limit. WV Harvest looks forward to exploring new ways to grow and harvest this incredible berry for years to come!

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