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Guest Post: A Very Good Elderberry Memory, by Bob Voll

I shouldn't be surprised anymore when I "discover" fantastic Kentucky foods that others have enjoyed since pre-history, but the surprises do keep coming. Specifically, they keep coming from the London Ferrill Community Garden (thank you again, Sherry Maddock) which is located about one long mulberry throw from our backyard. This week, Bob Voll plays the role of Surpriser-in-Chief. The subject is elderberries. After tasting Bob's Elderberry Jam, made with London Ferrill elderberries, I have a lot to say about these tiny fruits, but I will take my turn later this week. Bob Voll gets the first word on elderberries in today's guest post. He also took all the photos except the last one, a photo of him behaving the way he often does. Bob's photos show the path, he said, "from the frond to the pie."

Regular Savoring Kentucky readers have met Bob before, here and here.  He is a retired corporate executive who works hard at improving our community. A Certified Master Gardener, he chaired the Old Episcopal Burying Ground Committee for Christ Church Cathedral for several years. Until this week I had no idea he is also a champion of Very Tiny Fruits! Enjoy this sweet, thoughtful post.

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A Very Good Elderberry Memory

During the summer of this fine year, 2013, a personal dream came true for me. Ever since I was a scruffy eleven year-old, I yearned for an elderberry pie. Note that I use pie and not “piece of pie”. My mother made a deal with any of her children: “If you pick the elderberries and get them ready (being sure to pick the stem off each “BB-sized” berry), I will bake two pies – one for the family and one for you.” After my two brothers and sister outgrew the elderberry picking-cleaning task, the privilege passed to me. For four years, from my eighth to eleventh year, I relished the rigors of the tedious work of readying the elderberries for Mother’s pie-making.

When my elderberry pie desires waned and my preteen life demands dictated other activity, the pies stopped, since I was the last of the children my mother could enlist to do the berry prep-work.  So, for over 60 years all I had were wonderful memories of those glorious elderberry pies, baked exclusively for me.

Imagine my joy several years ago when elderberry bushes were planted at the London Ferrill Community Garden. As it worked out, physical limitations did not allow me to pick the berries. But this year those physical limitations were gone and a wonderful crop of berries beckoned to be picked. It seems that not many people know about the treasure contained in those berry-laden fronds. One Saturday morning I grabbed a large bag and clipped several pounds of berry fronds and drove them to my home.

Getting the berries from the bush to home was the easy part. The next challenge was the tedious work of separating each berry from its stem, needing to be sure to keep only the deep purple (almost black) berries. This process alone took over two hours. I was delightfully reminded of the many hours spent doing the same job as a youth.


Once the berries were ready, the rest of the process was as “easy as pie”, as they say. Fortunately, the result was an absolutely delicious dream-come-true. The first and every bite was packed full of emotion - joy, comfort, sorrow, and so much more. This time I was able to share those emotions with my best friend Trish (my wife). We stretched the joy of the pie-eating over a week's time.  When the pie was gone, so many great memories lingered. Those memories will have to last now, --- until next years’ elderberry pie.

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Editor's Note: That's Bob, below, helping plant the community orchard at the London Ferrill Community Garden, a fruitful space where 40 families have small garden plots, Seedleaf farms four large vegetable sections as part of its work of nourishing community, and the community orchard keeps filling hearts—and plates—with reconnection to the sweet potential of Creation's abundance.       

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