Elderberries have a long and colorful tradition in North America, stemming from their use by Native Americans for everything from music to healing. The whole plant was a center of enrichment for the lives of Native American tribe members, as they used the woody stems to stoke fires and make flutes, the berries for healing and food, and the remainder of the plant for other uses. Today, elderberries are hailed for their health properties, having sufficient nutrients to make them widely desired, and applications ranging from jams and wines to desserts. However, as they must be cooked before use, and they ripen at different times on the vine, proper storage is an item that requires consideration.
Methods to Consider for Cooling Elderberries after Harvest
Elderberries, like other berries, must be properly preserved after harvest in order to remain useable. Immediate cooling is advised, as any time at room temperature encourages mold, decay and rot.
Forced-Air Cooling – Cooling methods vary, but generally a forced air system is the most effective and efficient method for all types of berries. A forced air system is one where cold air is circulated through a cooled room in order to surround the berry with lower temperature air and cool the produce.
Hydrocooling – Hydrocooling is performed by submerging the produce in very cold water. This is not the best method for cooling berries after harvest because it does not sufficiently lower the temperature of the produce, but it can be successfully used as a pre-cooling method.
Methods to Avoid for Cooling Elderberries after Harvest
Room cooling – Room cooling is a system in which the room is cooled down to the appropriate temperature and the berries are allowed to adjust to the ambient temperature on their own – is inefficient for berries, and the cooling process is not fast enough to suit them.
Ice Packing – Ice packing, while somewhat faster and more efficient for short-term storage, is complicated where berries are concerned because of the fragility of the produce.
Vacuum Cooling – Produce that has structure that readily releases water, such as leafy greens, do well with a vacuum cooling system where the room is subjected to a vacuum that removes pressure from the room, thereby evaporating moisture and lowering the temperature, but the water barrier that forms the outside of the elderberry makes this an ineffective method for cooling them.
Hydrovac Cooling – Hydrovac cooling, a combination of hydrocooling and vacuum cooling where water is added to the produce just as they begin to lose water through the vacuum process, is ineffective for berries for the same reason.
When properly cooled after harvest, elderberries can be used in any number of applications. They aren’t suitable for eating raw due to the presence of toxins, and so must be properly stored before use to ensure that they can be utilized to their fullest potential when ready.
Semco can help you design a forced-air or hydrocooling system ideal for use with elderberries or other produce. We design these systems individually for each client and meticulously focus on the quality, integrity and dependability of the system to ensure that it will serve our clients well as they cool and store their fresh produce.