Monday, May 10, 2010

Saskatoon Berries

Today my friend showed me a HUGE Saskatoon tree growing along side of the Chehalis Western Trail in Olympia, Washington.

Also called Juneberry or Serviceberry, they are native to Canada and northern United States. The name Saskatoon - what a fun name - is derived from the Cree word misâskwatômina. The city of Saskatoon, Saskatchewan is named after these berries.

The saskatoon (Amelanchier alnifolia) is a small to large shrub, or small tree (the one on the Trail is NOT small!), which belongs to the Rose family. It is closely related to the apple, hawthorn and mountain ash. The saskatoon is a perennial, woody, fruit bearing shrub which is capable to adapting to a wide range of soils and climatic conditions. It is native to the Canadian Prairies, the Northwest Territories, the Yukon, Alaska, British Columbia and the northwestern and north central United States. The saskatoon flowers in early May to early June.

The saskatoon was an important food source for both indigenous peoples and the early pioneers. It is an important food source for wildlife during the winter season. The saskatoon was also used as a source wood and as a medicinal plant. Today saskatoons are used in a wide variety of ways from pies, jams, jellies, syrups ice cream toppings, wine, liqueurs and flavour concentrates to components of baked goods. They may be used fresh or frozen and can be dried to yield "raisins" or fruit leathers.

Look for dark red or purple round berries that have crowns. These berries taste similar to blueberries, but with slightly crunchy tiny almond-flavoured seeds inside. It is best to pick the berries that are most purple. These are the ripest and sweetest. The branches bend down allowing one to reach higher berries.

Guess who will be out there gathering berries?

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