I am old enough to be of that generation that still thinks of wine (made of grapes) as something of a novelty. When I was a child wine was either a half bottle of Sauternes at Christmas or a small glass of elderberry wine or parsnip sherry at my grandparents’. *
In the spirit of growing as wide a variety of fruit as possible, two elderberries have been planted along the drive. Elderberries are reputed to have many and various nutritional benefits but the idea is that they will provide the raw materials for elderflower cordial and elderberry wine, though I appreciate that if I strip them for the former I won’t have much for the latter.
I am talking here about the native Sambucus nigra. I already have the ornamental ‘Golden Tower’ and ‘Black Tower’ though the latter are small. And there are several Black Lace which have already been raided for cordial. So it seems strange to plant more, especially as elderberry is a native and is often a weed. But elderberries are curiously absent from the hedgerows around here and the one tree down the road does not set many fruits.
So I decided to add two cultivated, cropping varieties. I am not aware that these are easily available so sent for them from Poland. Many fruits that are ‘marginal’ here are well established in Eastern Europe. It means I was buying with blind faith and there is not much information about them, even with Google translate.
Planted this spring, both have grown well and, remarkably, flowered. You do not usually get flowers on one year-wood. If elderberries are pruned hard in spring they make vigorous growth and no flowers, whether grown for ornament or crops. You need to prune lightly, in summer, for flowers or fruit.
So the first bunch of berries is on ‘Samil’. I did pick a bunch off the wild elderberry and these are at the lower half of the photo. If you look closely and optimistically you can see that the ‘Samil’ truss has better fruit set and the fruits are larger. Even a slight increase in fruit diameter will be a significant increase in fruit weight. At least that is what I am telling myself.
What is also a good sign is that the way that the plants are flowering so precociously. The other ‘Sampo’ did not bloom in spring but is making flowers now, on sideshoots. So I picked one off and placed it beside the berries of ‘Samil’, to take a photo I never thought was possible.
Have you grown these cultivars or any other ‘culinary’ elderberries rather than foraging? I would be interested to know more about them.
* (Yes, I was allowed to have small amounts of alcohol as a child and I know this may not be PC but it did not encourage me to drink excessively)