Rural Missouri - June 2012 - (Page 8)

The POWER of PURPLE by Jason Jenkins jjenkins@ruralmissouri.coop Missouri’s native elderberry holds promise as the next ‘superfruit’ juice) can boost immunity and reduce the severity of colds and flu. Some celebrity physicians, most notably Dr. Oz, have touted the benefits of a ouquets of thousands of tiny, tablespoon of elderberry juice on their snow-white flowers dot the television shows. rows at Terry Durham’s Eridu While the elderberry as an agriculFarms just north of Hartstural crop has been mostly overlooked burg. It’s the first week of May here in in this country, the plant has been the Missouri River bottoms, and the cultivated for decades in Europe. Both elderberries are already blooming. its flowers and berries are used in “That warm weather we had in products that are consumed around March really hit us hard,” he says, the world. By some estimates, 60 explaining that in a normal year, the percent of the world’s elderberries berries don’t bloom until the calendar are consumed in the United States, flips to June. “I hope we get our deMissouri State University and Lincoln yet less than 10 percent of the fruit is stemming machine back soon. We’ll University, the pair has worked since grown here. Terry and his fellow elderbe needing it in about 40 days.” 1997 to identify and develop new culberry growers see this as an untapped This year marks Terry’s sixth seativars for commercial production. niche market that can be filled, and son as a commercial Terry planted his first wild elderthey are trying to play catch-up. elderberry grower. berry bushes in 1996 as part of a com“The elderberry is still underWith 37 acres now in munity-supported agriculture busideveloped as a commercial production, he operates • ness he managed. He learned about crop,” says Andy Thomas, a the largest elderberry farm what Andy and Patrick were up to researcher at the University not just in Missouri but also Hartsburg and decided to participate, providing of Missouri Southwest across the entire United cuttings from his elderberries for the Research Center in States. Along with the help project. In all, 62 wild varieties were Mount Vernon. “We of researchers and other evaluated, mostly from Missouri. really have lots more growers, he is spearheading After an initial evaluation lastwork to do.” an effort to turn these tiny ing about four years, the top 10 were Thomas, along with Patrick Byers, purple berries into a valuable specialty placed in field trials. By 2004, two a horticultural specialist with MU crop for Missouri farmers. Midwest cultivars emerged as being Extension, has spearheaded Missouri’s Elderberry is a native plant that can superior for Missouri: “Wyldewood” Elderberry Development Program. be found across most of North Amerand “Bob Gordon,” and it was then With cooperation from researchers at ica growing wild in fields and fencerows and along streams and ditches. Traditionally, American Indians and early American settlers harvested both the flowers and the berries for food. Such foraging continues today. Terry has childhood memories of family outings to pick wild elderberries each August. Like they did with the blackberries harvested earlier in the summer, they’d bring home buckets of elderberries that his mother would turn into a sweet, delicious jelly. Others find uses for elderberries, too. A few Missouri wineries occasionally produce small batches of elderberry wine. In recent years, elderberry has grabbed headlines for its potential health benefits. Known as “the medicine chest of the country people,” elderberry juice long has been used as a home remedy to treat a variety of ailments. Studies have lent credence to some claims, determining that the elderberry’s concentrations of antioxiTerry Durham describes the layout of his elderberry orchard to those attending his dants and vitamins (it contains three two-day workshop and farm tour in June 2011. Interest in producing elderberries times more vitamin C than orange continues to increase as more is learned about the fruit’s potential health benefits. B that Terry decided to devote himself to growing elderberries. Today, the two public cultivars released by MU dominate the orchards at Eridu Farms, which is served by Boone Electric Cooperative. They are favored because they produce large numbers of berries that ripen evenly. The “Bob Gordon” variety also has the added advantage of growing clumps that turn over and hang down, which helps stave off hungry birds. Finding the best varieties was just the first step, however; an efficient and productive cropping system also was needed. The MU researchers learned that by cutting the elderberries back to the ground every year, the plants would grow back and produce fewer but larger clumps of fruit that were easier to harvest. This is the system Terry now uses. His orchards are arranged in rows spaced every 12 feet; the elderberry bushes are planted four feet apart. Native grasses grow between the rows. These are mowed, and the clippings are used as mulch. In August, the shiny berries turn dull and dimple, indicating they’re ripe and ready to harvest, which currently is done by hand. “They’re the easiest thing I’ve ever picked,” says Terry, who adds he’s working on a mechanical harvesting device to help speed the process. “You don’t have to get on a ladder like with fruit trees. The berries are at eye level. You don’t have to search through the foliage, like with green bean bushes, or bend over and hunt like with strawberries.” Once harvested, the elderberries are de-stemmed, washed, sanitized, packed into 25-pound buckets and frozen immediately. During his first 8 WWW.RURALMISSOURI.COOP http://WWW.RURALMISSOURI.COOP

Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of Rural Missouri - June 2012

Rural Missouri - June 2012
Table of Contents
Comments
Columns
The power of purple
The little town that could
Out of the Way Eats
Missouri snapshots contest
Sustainable forestry
Stocked with adventure
Hearth and Home
Outdoors
Around Missouri
Marketplace
Neighbors
Just4Kids

Rural Missouri - June 2012

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