Elderflowers to Market

You might recognize elderberry as a booming, beneficial commercial crop, but don’t overlook the elderflower, which has grown into a market all its own.

Photo by Adobe Stock/Madeleine Steinbach

Few plants offer as much potential as the elderberry. It’s easy to grow and can be used for a variety of culinary and medicinal purposes, which makes it an immediate asset to any homestead, farm, or spacious garden. These properties make the plant desirable not only for use at home, but also as a commercial crop.

Most people associate elderberry with its fruit — clusters of dark-purple berries that can easily weigh a pound or more. But the alternative crop that the plants produce, the fragrant flowers, is often overlooked. Fleeting elderflowers are popular as cordials and teas, turned into fritters and jellies, and included in homemade skin care products and anti-inflammatory medicines. The diverse and delicious blooms are as prized in the marketplace as the berries they become when left on the branch. All it takes is thoughtful planting and the right buyer, and you could corner the market on elderflowers in your area.

Choosing Your Crop

Two major cultivars of elderberry are grown commercially across the United States, while a distant third that’s native to the West Coast is rarely used for commercial purposes.

Sambucus canadensis, commonly referred to as “American” or “common” elderberry, is native to the large part of North America east of the Rocky Mountains. It grows as large canes, and will fruit in both its first and second year of growth. The plants spread via underground rhizomes.

Many of the veteran S. canadensis cultivars available today were selected from the wild along the East Coast. However, in the past few years, a number of new cultivars have been introduced that are native to the Midwest. Some growers may prefer seedlings native to their particular locations, but the elderflowers and berries from these plants can be smaller (and therefore more time-consuming to harvest) than their wild-selected cousins.



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