BY RACHEL CUCCURULLO
Growing up in West Virginia, Morgan Delgado was raised in the country and clearly remembers buying local goods in her hometown.
“There weren’t the big box stores that we have here in Port St. Lucie,” Delgado says. “We bought our meat from a local butcher, veggies, eggs and milk from local farmers, and other handmade goods from around town.”
Delgado was raised by her grandparents in Hurricane, West Virginia. She describes them as hardworking people who strove to teach Delgado important lifeskills and ways to be more self-sufficient. Her grandfather worked for a large agricultural biotech corporation and her grandmother was a homemaker, who raised Delgado and her older sister.
“We had a very traditional upbringing, with strict curfews, church every Sunday and supper at 4:30 p.m., on the dot!” Delgado says. “Our town was small enough that no matter where we went, someone recognized us ‘when we were this big.’ ”
In the countryside, elderberry syrup was a staple in almost everyone’s household. The syrup was often taken when one felt a common cold or flu creeping up. Other times, it was used to combat seasonal allergies or sinus issues.
Elderberries are native to the eastern United States and parts of Mexico. In West Virginia, the shrub forms thickets that sprawl around wet and low-lying areas. The plant flowers in the summer months and produces its much-coveted berries in late summer to fall. The leaves, bark, root and unripened berries are toxic, but ripe berries can be cooked down to create jams, preserves, wine and syrup.
“Elderberry syrup contains so many amazing health benefits, but it can be rather pricey,” Delgado says. “When I lived in West Virginia, I was a young kid and didn’t worry about the cost because it was all homemade.”
Delgado moved to Florida in 2006 and graduated high school when she was 16 by taking virtual classes from Indian River State College. Her mother lived in Port St. Lucie and she thought it a great opportunity to live in sunny South Florida.
“My roots are very country, so moving to this area was a complete change for me,” Delgado says. “Right after receiving my diploma, I got to work. Mostly, I worked in retail and then I shifted toward the medical field.”
Delgado returned to school at IRSC and received a medical assistant certificate. She first worked at a nursing home and then for a podiatrist. Later, Delgado landed a job as a medical assistant at Water’s Edge Dermatology where she remained for 10 years.
“I then met my husband and we had our daughter in 2014 and our son in 2016,” Delgado says. “I had been looking for a way out of the corporate nine-to-five world and I was not really crazy about the medical field to be honest, but it was a steady paying job.”
It was not until Delgado was pregnant with their third child in 2018 that she told her husband that she didn’t want to return to work after her maternity leave ended.
“That heartache was too much and the whole first week after having Harrison, I cried thinking about having to go back to the office,” Delgado says. “So, we started cutting the budget but one of the things I could not cut back on was my elderberry syrup. It was a crucial item in our medicinal toolbox.”
For most working-class families, elderberry syrup is not very affordable. Delgado’s husband told her she should try and make some herself. She thought about it and one night when Delgado and her husband were lying in bed, she says, “OK, let me get a hundred bucks and I’ll see what I can make myself.”
Delgado made a trip to Nutrition S’mart, purchased the necessary ingredients and made a large batch of syrup. She posted a notice on Facebook that she had extra syrup, hoping to recoup some of her expenses.
“At that point, my good friend, Liz Wickes, told me, ‘You are not doing this. You are not just going to post a few jars on Facebook for friends and family. This is a business now,’” Delgado says. “She came to my house that night and had me design a logo, helped me create an email address and website for the business, I filed for my LLC and purchased business insurance.”
After branding, her business HHH Organics (named after her three children) took off and friends and family were quite supportive. Because of its fairly high price-tag, Delgado points out that, in the past, she would only use elderberry syrup when she was sick.
“It wasn’t until I had kids of my own, that it became part of our daily routine,” she says. “We use it to prevent colds since elderberry works as an immune modulator.”
Immunomodulatory herbs aid in regulating the immune system. Delgado’s syrup has only 10 ingredients, is high in vitamin C, polyphenols and antioxidants.
Soon she had family and friends in West Virginia requesting the product.
“Since I could not ship the syrup across state lines without special licensing, I came up with the idea to create DIY kits,” Delgado says. “We have step-by-step instructions and the kits can fit their own regional needs by adding local honeys to improve seasonal allergies.”
After the DIY kits, Delgado started using the leftover ‘mash’ from creating the syrups to make a honey-blend with the dehydrated berries. Most recently, she has been making elderberry lip balms, body butters and tinctures.
Delgado’s hard work has paid off. On Sept. 3, HHH Organics held the grand opening for its first storefront in Downtown Stuart. The brick-and-mortar is to be a wellness-centered collective for HHH Organics and other local merchants.
“We will feature many products that are eco-friendly and focused on natural health and wellness,” Delgado says. “For example, we will have inventory from local honey-maker, Hani Honey, items from a local candle and soap maker, live plants and kits to brew your own kombucha that we found out of Oregon.”
Delgado hopes to continue living a simple and healthful lifestyle and take the lessons her grandparents raised her on to bring people together through a natural living collective.
“I want to empower people to take hold of their own health and wellness and learn that it’s not difficult,” Delgado says. “It sounds sort of daunting, but we are all capable of bettering ourselves and supporting one another in those efforts.”
Lives in: Port St. Lucie
Family: Husband, Matthew, and three children: Harper, 6, Hudson, 4, and Harrison, 15 months
Education: Medical assistant certificate from Indian River State College
Hobbies: Growing houseplants and botanicals and making herbal preparations and remedies
Who Inspires You: “Rosemary Gladstar is a huge source of inspiration for me. She is an herbalist who was able to heal and take care of her family naturally, with plants alone.”
Something most people don’t know about me: “I grew up in the middle of the countryside in West Virginia.”