The journey from grocers to elderberry syrup gurus/What’s in a berry?
They came to it by accident. The tiny fruit inks up: European black elderberry (Sambucus nigra) is the richest and most concentrated in antioxidants among elderberry species and sought for its general immune- support properties.
Cassie Green and her husband Gary Stephens were not expecting to become elderberry syrup gurus when they opened their business Green Grocer in Dallas in 2013, with a holistic health coaching practice on the side. (The shop was open for five years.)
“We sold it at our store. And we were just obsessed with it. Our whole staff loved it; my husband loved it. I didn’t get that cold I would previously get. My allergies went away,” Green says.
The couple was getting the elixir made by a local family who moved to Maine, offering to let the Green Grocer duo take the reins.
“We made about 60 different items in-house, and the one thing people asked about [obsessively] was the elderberry syrup,” Green says.
So starting in 2016, when they cut back on the shop, they concentrated on using the commercial kitchen to bottle the purple potion. “We just started calling our friends who owned juice bars, little [businesses], and it grew from there. I never ever thought that we could have the simplicity of dealing with just one product,” Green says.
The inky dark berry is used as a supplement. Like turmeric or matcha, it’s part of a longstanding tradition to which people are latching on, in this case for its antiviral and antioxidant properties; it’s touted for shortening the length of colds and flu.
Green appreciates the way it allows her to be “a hippie who likes science,” in her own words. “I love a good, traditional remedy for things, but I also love things that have clinical research behind it. The balance of something that has been used for centuries by so many cultures, but then it also has double-blind studies.” She marvels at “all these different benefits that people are still figuring out from this tiny little berry.”
Her syrup is made with dried organic berries, harvested in the fall in Eastern Europe, which the team simmers and then cold presses, adding organic ginger and cinnamon, Texas lemon juice, and raw honey from a beekeeper in Burleson.
The speck of a fruit was famously called out by the Greek Hippocrates as a medicine chest of sorts. But it offers Green a way to be connected to local producers. During the early days of the pandemic sales skyrocketed. Now they’ve evened, but elderberry has seeped into the collective consciousness in a way it hadn’t before.
You can douse pancakes with a mixture of one part elderberry syrup to two parts maple syrup and top with blueberries, Green will say with a smile. Or make a chia pudding. Mix a swirl into Greek yogurt. “I always like to take a natural route to healing myself,” she says.
Hers is a success story built on a tiny, potent, dark-purple berry.
Find Cassie Green Health Elderberry Syrup from $19.99 for 8 oz. at Burgundy’s Local in Dallas and Fort Worth, at Market Provisions at the Dallas Farmers Market, or online at cassiegreenhealth.com
Glow Detox Salad
This salad dressing is so simple but oh, so good. Immune boosting and delicious, it’s a great balance of savory meets sweet with a bright finish from fresh lime juice. Not only is it good for you, it’s light and refreshing and makes me rejoice that spring is here.
EVE HILL-AGNUS teaches English and journalism and is a freelance writer based in Dallas. She earned degrees in English and Education from Stanford University. Her work has appeared in the Dallas Morning News, D Magazine, and the journal Food, Culture & Society. She remains a contributing Food & Wine columnist for the Los Altos Town Crier, the Bay-Area newspaper where she stumbled into journalism by writing food articles during grad school. Her French-American background and childhood spent in France fuel her enduring love for French food and its history. She is also obsessed with goats and cheese.