AVOCA, N.Y. — If you think elderberries are just your average berries, think again. They equal big business for Matthias Reisen.
“There’s all that potential, so many different avenues of marketing the elderberry,” said Reisen.
It’s the middle of the harvest season for the berries at Healing Spirits Herb Farm near Avoca. Reisen spends about four weeks picking the berries each summer. It’s once the berries are off the bushes that they become money-makers.
“We make syrup out of the elderberry, it’s good for when you feel like you got a cold or fighting the flu,” said Reisen.
Elderberry products are a $320-million-a-year business. Most of that money is made from syrups and extracts. The berries and their flowers are packed with vitamins and antioxidants that some say help boost your immune system.
The berries are dried for about a week before getting made into the products you can find for sale in the Healing Spirits Apothecary.
Andrea Reisen makes most of the mixtures. She says people are buying elderberry products not only for their health but also for nostalgia.
“It’s something we remember. It’s something our grandmothers did, our great-grandmothers did and maybe even our parents,” said Reisen. “We have a history of it within our body, it’s something our body remembers.”
There’s money in those memories. Sales took off during the pandemic. The Reisen’s now plant 50 to 100 more elderberry bushes a year in addition to the 500 they already have to keep up with the demand.
But for the Reisens, It’s simply about helping others.
“I’m a caregiver, whether I like it or not that’s what I do. We have a lot of children, there’s grandchildren and I just like taking care,” said Andrea Reisen.
As Andrea mixes the fresh berries into a tea, she’s excited others are discovering the magic of elderberries.
“I like to think that as people are getting more and more aware of how elderberries work, that they’re not going to forget it,” said Andrea.