Many of us driving along the road between Knowlton and Cowansville must have wondered why the Highland cattle disappeared and were replaced with neat rows of small bushes. Those are elderberry bushes and this summer they flowered for the first time.
The elderberry farm is the project of Phillippe Gélinas. It is a daring undertaking, and will be the largest elderberry farm in Canada. This year, the bushes are bearing their first fruit, two years after more than 20,000 elderberry bushes were planted on more than 30 acres. The plants usually take three years to mature but they flowered a year in advance.
However, a dry summer means that all the plants won’t be producing fruit until next year. When they are in full production the farm will produce around 150,000 kilograms of berries a year.
Elderberries are in demand for their health benefits. The produce from the Gélinas farm will be sold in bulk to companies in Canada and the United States who use it in many different products. It is said to be high in anti-oxidants, which help the immune system.
A report by Cornell University in the United States points out that elderberries are hardy plants that can survive in climates such as ours.
“Elderberries contain more phosphorus and potassium than any other temperate fruit crops. The fruit is also rich in vitamin C,” said the Cornell Report. The report also says uncooked berries are inedible and must be cooked before use. Its harsh taste when raw makes it unattractive to pests, but loved by humans as juice or in pies.
Observant motorists driving by will have noticed people working in the fields from time to time. That is because the elderberry plant is rather delicate and the rows have to be weeded by hand.
The farm will be open to the public in late August or early September.