The flavour is unique — a combination of blueberries and grapes. The colour is a rich, dark purple.” Lyn Brown is describing the Black Pansy Syrup she produces. Two other syrups she makes, Red Clover Blossom Syrup and Rose Petal Syrup also have their own novel and delicious taste.
“These are locally made products that aren’t made anywhere else in the world,” adds Brown.
In 2005 Brown and her husband purchased the family farm near Choiceland in northeast Saskatchewan. They were harvesting the red clover on the land for seed but she thought there might be something else the clover could be used for.
“I was researching and studying herbs and medicinal plants at the time and found that red clover has many health benefits and the blossoms can be made into a delicious tea,” she says.
Brown experimented with the red clover blossoms and discovered that by adding unrefined organic cane sugar to the tea and boiling it down, she could produce delicious syrup that tasted a little lighter and slightly nuttier than maple syrup. Impressed with the results, she felt the syrup might be a product consumers would enjoy and appreciate.
“Because shelf life for syrup is determined by the maple syrup industry, we used the same Brix level — the same formula in terms of percentage of sugar to water. That gives the syrup the same consistency and shelf life as maple syrup. Once I had the syrup, I had a product with a shelf life,” Brown said.
With help from family members and the local community, Brown hand picks the red clover blossoms once a year on the August long weekend. Because they use only fresh flowers, and have the use of the University of Saskatchewan commercial government-inspected kitchen for a limited time period, the blossoms have to be picked en masse.
Massive pots of tea are brewed and allowed to steep overnight. Next day the flowers are removed and unrefined organic cane sugar is added to the tea which is boiled down to the proper consistency. The syrup is then bottled and packed into boxes.
The black pansies are grown in three-feet-wide by four-feet-high by 60-feet-long raised beds. The plants continue to blossom all summer so flowers can be picked every couple of weeks. At the end of the summer, Brown makes an appointment at the commercial kitchen at the University of Saskatchewan where she begins to process all the dried pansy blossoms into syrup.
“What we need at this point is more people to grow the black pansies for us because this syrup has become very popular and sells out before Christmas every year.”
Brown isn’t able to label the Black Pansy Syrup as certified organic at this stage because the seedlings she purchases from greenhouses aren’t grown organically. “Even though I grow them organically, I’m unable to get that certification at this point. I’m working with some certifiers to see what we can do,” she says.
Growing and harvesting sufficient rose petals on their property to fill the demand for the Rose Petal Syrup is also a challenge at this point, but she has begun to source certified organic rose petals from other growers.
Initially the local farmers’ market served as a test market for her products. The response was such that by 2009 she realized she could no longer go it alone. She felt confident about the product and knew it was time to move forward. She and her four daughters incorporated Bedard Creek Acres Inc. She has since received some funding from Women Entrepreneurs of Saskatchewan and Saskatchewan Agriculture and Food. This has helped to produce promotional material as well as provide more marketing opportunities.
Brown has a business and farming background. Her oldest daughter Angela has a master’s degree in science and has been able to assist with the nutritional components of the products. Carmen, daughter No. 2, has an engineering degree and has helped in the marketing proc-ess. Arianna is in her first year studying commerce and is looking at the business end of things, including international marketing. Youngest daughter, Crystal, is still at home and helps with growing the pansies and harvesting the red clover.
“Currently we are doing some educational awareness at the same time we’re doing marketing and promotion. We want our customers to learn how these syrups can be used in cooking, for instance. We decided from the beginning our motto would be that we wanted people to experience the beauty of life through taste,” adds Brown.
For the moment she wants to continue focusing on the growing market in the western provinces, particularly cities such as Saskatoon and Regina. “I want my product to be the best it can be. At some point in the future, if I want to step back and my daughters decide to carry it forward, that will be their opportunity. I love what it is now.”
Bedard Creek Acres Inc. markets its syrups in Saskatoon at SaskMade Marketplace; in Prince Albert at the Prince Albert Visitor Centre; and in Regina at Beer Bros. Deli and Dad’s Organic Market.
For more information, visit www.bedardcreekacres.ca. †