Elderberry Draws International Community to Columbia

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COLUMBIA - The elderberry is alluring researchers from across the country to mid-Missouri. The First International Symposium on the Elderberry will begin in Columbia on Sunday.

Scientists from places like Denmark, Egypt and Germany will present current research on the super fruit. Researchers from the University of Missouri will also discuss their findings. Key topics to be discussed at the conference include the elderberry and human health, elderberry horticulture, elderberry botany/ethnobotany, and the elderberry industry.

According to elderbery farmer Rodger Lenhardt, this research is important in supporting the local farmer's efforts to grow and sell the product. For the last six years, Lenhardt and his farming partner Terry Durham have learned how to transform the elderberries into jam, cordial and juice. Lenhardt says the berries are rich in antioxidants and nutritional value, which is why he argues scientists are paying closer attention to the berry.

"I think people are realizing you are what you eat and that functional foods like the elderberry that are high in nutrition, water soluble, dense in available nutrients and vitamins are just good for us," Lenhardt said.

Lenhardt said the symposium is the result of a lot of work by the University of Missouri. In the 90's the university started the Elderberry Improvement Project. The idea was to take a native fruit like the elderberry and commercialize it for the local market.

The scientific part of the symposium will take place from June 9 through June 12 at the Stoney Creek Inn. The Elderberry Producers Symposium goes from June 13 to June 14.