The workshop we attended yesterday focused on growing elderberries. I was aware of elderberries and knew you could make jelly and wine from them, but I had never eaten one or even seen one in "real life" before yesterday. Here's the agenda for the workshop and a brochure about elderberries they gave us.
As it turns out, elderberries grow wild all over the U.S. and there are many native varieties right here in Oklahoma. As shown on the brochure above, elderberries, grow in bunches and they are not very large, only a little larger than BBs. I was surprised that they are not all that sweet. However, they contain tons of antioxidants, over 3 times as much as blueberries! It is for this reason that interest in them has skyrocket in recent years.
Another interesting thing is, until recently, all the domesticated varieties of elderberries available in the U.S. came from New York or Nova Scotia. As you can imagine, these varieties may not do well here in the Midwest. So, research is now being done, most notably at the University of Missouri, to develop varieties adapted for this part of the country. To date, several varieties have been developed. Bob Gordon, Wildewood 1 and 2, and Ranch are some of the varieties now available. Ranch is a variety developed in Oklahoma. Below is a map showing the varieties the Kerr Center has planted in their test plot. Adams is one of the New York varieties that was included for comparison.
At the end of the day, we went on a tour of the elderberry test plots at the Kerr Center. Here's a picture of the actual planting that corresponds to the map above.
Believe it or not, the plants above were started this past spring from cuttings that were only about 4 inches long! These are fast growing plants!
There was ample opportunity to visit and ask questions.
The great thing about this workshop was there were several speakers who already grew elderberries commercially and we got to hear their stories of how they got started in the business, things they did right and things they did wrong when starting out.
I don't expect us to get into growing elderberries on a large commercial scale. However, we do plan to plant 6 to 8 bushes. Just enough to have some to sell at our farmers' market with some left over for me to make jelly from and maybe try my hand at making elderberry wine.