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Elderberries

Elderberries

Elderberries have long been used for healing by Native peoples and in the Vermont farm kitchen. Elderberries are rich invitamin C and traditionally have been used to treat colds and the flu. Modern research has found that elderberries are extremely high in anthocyanins which give the elderberry its distinct purple color. These specific anthocyanins are thought to be responsible for the elderberries potent antiviral and anti-inflammatory actions. This in turn helps the body build up the immune system and fight off some viruses that chemical medicines do not work on.

July 8, 2008

With six colonies of bees next to a plantation of elderberry, we patiently waited for a picture of a honey bee on an elderberry flower."Elderberries are very likely mainly wind pollinated. Insects probably play an accessory role in that process. It is however hard to get hard evidences for this, but over the last 3 years our observations support the wind pollination theory.” Denis Charlebois, head of the Agriculture Canada elderberry project, Quebec

February 2002

As I was walking away from a gathering recently, and someone asked me about the bees.

Wherever I go in northern Vermont, there is awareness and interest in honey bees. People are conscious of the bees and want to know how they are wintering, how the crop is going, or how they are surviving the attack of the parasitic mites.

As I started talking about the bees and how we are now combining honey with elderberry, a group of elder ladies gathered around around and started telling stories about what their parents did with elderberry when they were children. Jam was made, to be used through the winter when someone had a cold or flu, pie and wine were part of the yearly rhythm of the farm kitchen. The ladies were excited to remember a fruit that was important to the family in their youth and that they have not seen much of since then. The elderberry has skipped a generation.

Days after making elderberry, I am still find purple splotches on my clothing. It is a very tenacious berry. At the Vermont Food Venture Center in Fairfax, where we make the elderberry syrup,we learned that elderberry is the only food product that stains the white coats we wear there that will not come clean in the wash. This reminded me of propolis that lingers in our bee suits after many washings.

It is now five months since these elderberries were harvested and 12 years since Lewis Hill told me about the elderberries and and encouraged me to get involved with them. The journey has been a long one I reflected on all of this last week at the end of one of Tim and my 11 hour days in the Venture Center making elderberry syrup. Purple jars with different formulations were scattered all over the room and we were closing in on the fine tuning for the formula. We were on the edge of finding a way to keep our bees' Apitherapy raw honey from crystallizing and the elderberry from jellying up in the bottle and still keep the honey totally raw. Samples were delivered by messenger (me) up to a $7,000 computer analyzing each test batch as we tweaked the receipe.

“Tim, we have made elderberry-honey syrup !” I proclaimed, feeling almost drunk in the spirit as I realized how we were at the conclusion of many years of work.

“We are not making elderberry, “ he wisely responded, “we are deliverying elderberry."

Thank you for your support of our bees and their work.

Vermont Elderberry Project

Given: the medicinal value of elderberry as a cold and flu fighter, boosting the immunity system, addressing some viruses that chemical medicines do not touch, and being rich in natural vitamin C, and the traditional and historical use of elderberry in Vermont, long cultivated on the farm and in villages, and the fading of the elderberry plants from the landscape due to development pressures and a disconnection between people and the soil and medicinal plants the Vermont Elderberry Project is now growing elderberry plants.

These will be made available to those that want to plant them and repopulate the state with elderberry bushes.

Lewis Hill, Greensboro, will provide the elderberry nursery stock and experience with growing, harvesting, and using elderberry.

Todd Hardie, will grow the nursery stock and offer it to those who want to plant elderberry. He works with Honey Gardens Apiaries in Shelburne to make an elderberry extract, combining Apitherapy raw honey with organic elderberry and propolis gathered by honey bees.

A proposal is being made for a site to allow for a long term planting to provide stock for growers to buy each spring and also grow elderberries for use in the elderberry honey extract and other possible products. There is not enough organic elderberry available in Vermont now for use in the formulation of products.

It takes about three years for an elderberry plant to begin to bear any amount of fruit. With elderberries from this work, people can harvest their own berries and make their own products.

Your food shall be your medicine and your medicine shall be your food.
Hippocrates (460-377 B.C.)

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