You won’t find elderberries on display at your local market, but elderberry bushes make my list of easy growing organic fruits for the backyard gardener. Elderberries are also very attractive plants that fit well in the ornamental edible landscape.
Why Grow Elderberries
Most berries are easier to grow and less susceptible to insect damage than common tree fruits such as apples, peaches, and plums. But elderberries are even more convenient to grow than other berries because there’s less effort required to keep the plants pruned.
Elderberry plants are actually small trees, growing up to fourteen feet in height, but can be maintained at shorter heights if desired. Elderberries will grow just fine in average soils and prefer full sun but will tolerate a location with partial shade.
There are many varieties of elderberry to choose from and you should plant at least two different varieties for pollination if you wish to produce fruit. The small white edible flowers are followed by the tiny black berries that grow in large clusters and should be allowed to ripen on the plant before harvesting.
Popular Elderberry Varieties
I only have one elderberry plant growing in my garden, so it doesn’t bear fruit but it’s a variegated variety that’s worth growing just for its ornamental appearance. Variegated elderberries enhance the landscape with their colorful foliage that displays green and white or green and yellow colored leaf patterns.
There’s also an attractive variety with purple-black foliage and pink flowers called Black Beauty that will provide an unusual accent to the garden. Other great elderberry varieties for the home garden include: Sutherland, York, Blue Elder, Adams, Nova, Goldbeere, Allesso, Haschberg, and Cut Leaf Elder.
It seems like every week there’s a report of an exotic berry that’s been discovered which promises a number of health benefits. Well the elderberry can be found growing right in our own back yards, and was labeled long ago as “the medicine chest of the country people” (Ettmueller), for its history of medicinal uses.
Adding Elderberries to the Diet
I’d even wager that elderberries are pretty high in some of the same antioxidants and nutrients that put exotic fruits such as Wild Himalayan Goji Berries in the headlines of today’s health news.
Ripe black elderberries can be eaten fresh, while other traditional uses include: wine making, teas, jams, and jellies. I’ve even seen elderberry recipes for baking pies and making ice cream.
If you’d like to add a healthful organic fruit that’s easy to grow and maintain to your home garden, give a little consideration to planting a pair of elderberries in your backyard.
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