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Local Food Matters

This is the perfect time of year to try Montana Elderberry syrup.

By Mary Rosewood

Anne Sorensen, who developed the syrup, calls the antioxidant quercetin “elderberry’s secret weapon.” Elderberries have one of the highest concentrations found in any food. Anne said lab tests show quercetin blocks viruses from entering healthy cells. “We emphasize that this syrup is a highly concentrated product. We’ve done the research to figure out exactly how much quercetin is in a tablespoon, our recommended serving.”

Elderberry tea is another health-supporting product. “We recommend taking a tablespoon of syrup daily to support your immune system and ward off anything you might come in contact with. When people do get sick, we say you should take it four times a day. And if you want, you can supplement with the tea,” which is also packed with immune-supporting ingredients. Anne notes that the flavor of the tea “really pops” when it’s iced.

“Our kids love all of our products,” Anne said. “I know a lot of parents struggle to get their kids to eat healthy things, to take their vitamins, and this is a really easy, delicious way to get your family to stay healthy naturally.”

Anne said that although elderberries grow in Montana, these “have a fraction of the potency of the European black elderberry, and that’s the berry that’s been used traditionally in home remedies.” So Anne imports dried berries from Ukraine, but uses raw honey produced in Montana.

Anne began brewing elderberry syrup in late 2019 to improve the health of her youngest son and gave bottles as Christmas gifts to family and friends. When these folks asked for more, she saw it could be a good product to sell.

In early 2020, she found a commercial kitchen in Kalispell and began getting her business set up with the state.

Although her family has moved to Bozeman and she now has help to process the syrup in a kitchen in Belgrade, to begin with, Anne was working long hours alone.

“It’s a long process brewing elderberries,” Anne explained. “In the early days it seemed like one big project.” Today, Anne and her two employees work about seven hours to produce 256 bottles each day.

Raw elderberries and their seeds are considered poisonous, but Anne explained, “I’ve eaten plenty of the berries. A berry here, a berry there isn’t going to hurt you. You just don’t want to have a lot. We err on the really, really safe side.”

Anne’s careful processing begins with boiling the berries with spices. “We boil the berries for forty minutes,” Anne said. “Some other makers boil them for a shorter amount of time, but I really want to open up those berries, open up those spices, and get every ounce of goodness out of them.”

The mixture is run through a large cider press to extract the liquid, which goes back into the 40-gallon kettle. When the correct temperature is reached, honey is added and the liquid is poured into bottles. The bottles can be kept on a shelf for two years, but when opened, they must be refrigerated.

It was a memorable day in late 2020 when Anne walked into a small family-owned health food store in Kalispell and got her first retailer. Soon demand spread throughout the Flathead Valley, and Anne was selling as much as she could make, with two retailers in each town in the area. Now Montana Elderberry syrup is shipped to all fifty states.

Anne added, “One of our favorite parts of this business is selling at farmers markets. At the market you get to meet so many people. Not just Montanans, but also people who are visiting our state. Our family is really eager to do another market next summer. I miss it so much.”

Along with syrup and tea, elderberry syrup kits are also available for the adventurous. And watch for elderberry-infused honey, which Anne promises is quite tasty.

For more information about elderberries and to order Montana Elderberry products:

You can also get the syrup through Whole and Nourished meal delivery service:


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