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Elderberry juices will get expert tasting through grant

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Elderberries bloom in late summer with white blossoms. They can be grown at home as a crop for birds as well as jellies, jams and  to flavor syrups and even wine.

Elderberries bloom in late summer with white blossoms. They can be grown at home as a crop for birds as well as jellies, jams and to flavor syrups and even wine.

COLUMBIA — Call it the ultimate elderberry taste test.

Researchers at the University of Missouri will soon be comparing the flavors of six different types of elderberry juice — with names such as Wylde Wood, Ocoee, York and Adam’s II — in an effort to help elderberry producers make better juice and command higher prices.

Researchers will taste the juice from the different varieties and compare flavors. They will then sort the juices into groups such as “fruity floral” and “musty dusty.”

Terry Durham, who cultivates elderberries at his Eridu Farms near Hartsburg in Boone County, says elderberries have a wide variety of flavors that need to be identified.

“This is an excellent initiative because we’re trying to develop selections that grow well and taste well, and this can help us with that,” he said.

Michele Warmund, a professor in the MU Division of Plant Sciences at says the research will help identify undesirable or “off” flavors in certain varieties. The $18,912 awarded to fund elderberry research is distributed among four local projects focused on specialty crops including fruits, vegetables, tree nuts and nursery crops.

Here’s a look at the other specialty crop grants:

• Columbia Farmers Market was given $12,993 to educate kids about agriculture, soil and specialty crops, market manager Corrina Smith said. Activities will include demonstrations by community organizations such as the Columbia Center for Urban Agriculture and Community Montessori School, along with cooking demonstrations.

There will also be an expansion of current educational programs, Smith said. She cited a recent “soil-making” session to teach children how soil forms in nature.

“We want them to be interested in fresh produce and its journey from the seed to the table,” Smith said. “We’ve been wanting to establish these activities for a long time. These funds will finally help get them off the ground.”

• Missouri River Communities Network received $28,638 to better connect specialty crop growers in the Missouri River valley with organizations that sell the crops such as farmers markets.

Information will be gathered from producers between St. Charles and Independence about their growing practices and willingness to collaborate with other producers on marketing, Steve Johnson, executive director of Missouri River Communities Network, said. There are also plans to produce a local food map for consumers, he said.

• MU received an additional $53,128 to study how wineries and wine trails in other states combine marketing and production efforts. Peter Hofherr, assistant director of the McQuinn Center For Entrepreneurial Leadership at MU, said the idea is to determine whether a similar approach could work in Missouri wineries.

George Freeman is a veteran journalist and photographer. An award-winning writer, editor and columnist in Springfield, Mo., with more than 50 years experience. His preference is for positive and uplifting stories about people, places, traditions and trends that make the Ozarks one of the most livable regions anywhere. A member of the Garden Writers Association of America, he is a past-president of the Society of Professional Journalists of Southwest Missouri, the Kansas and Ohio AP societies; a board member of Friends of the Garden and a member of the Rotary Club of Springfield. In 1976, he traveled to India as a member of a Rotary Foundation Group Study Exchange Team.

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