Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Wild Edibles - Juneberries! (Saskatoons, Serviceberries)

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The other morning, I ran into a neighbor of ours holding a pot of purplish blue berries she'd just picked from several tall bushes planted throughout our development.  At that moment, I was introduced to the world of juneberries, also known as saskatoons and serviceberries. I'd read about them before but never knew enough to recognize them in the world.  When she had me try one, I was really surprised by how very sweet and tasty they were.  The flower ends are a bit though and the seeds are more pronounced than say blueberry seeds, but I can imagine they would make a wonderful jam if strained and with a bit of acid added into the mix.  Interesting thing about the seeds - if you bite into them, you get this little burst of almond flavor. 

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Juneberries start out red but ripen into a purplish blue.  I was surprised to find that most of the bushes had been left unpicked and that many of the berries had shriveled up under the recent heatwave.  Despite this, Jonathan and I (well, mostly me) picked about 4 lbs of decent-looking berries, some of which I'll turn into a dessert for one of our community dinners and the rest...well you'll find out tomorrow. 

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The interesting thing about wild edibles (by this, I mean plants you normally wouldn't find in the supermarket or even at the farmers markets) is that once you are formally introduced to them and experience their goodness, they usually stay with your for the rest of your life.  This time next year, I can imagine Jonathan recognizing juneberries whenever and wherever they appear during our outings. 

10 comments:

  1. I was introduced to saskatoon berries when I lived in Saskatoon (appropriately enough!). A friend from Saskatchewan is visiting this week, and I took her to see my parents' garden and their serviceberry (as they are called here in Ontario). After she stripped the bush of all the ripe berries, she asked why we didn't eat them. So I introduced her to the mulberry tree, and said we eat those instead ;)

    And in addition to mulberries and saskatoons, we have a lot of elderberries that grow wild - I need to find a stand of them this year, and make elderberry pie - so good!

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  2. We take an annual trip to visit my sister-in-law each August. She lives near the mountains in South-eastern Idaho. While we are there we always join her on an excursion to the woods to pick Huckleberries. They are a delicious wild berry that grows in the higher mountain areas. They are super good but a lot of work. 4 to 6 hours of 3 people picking last year only yielded about 2 gallons of berries. So we freeze them and only bring them out for special occasions.

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  3. Yum, I love serviceberries! You really can find them all over if you know what you're looking for. There are even some in the parking strip at my home depot.

    P.S. That almond flavor from the seeds really comes out when they're cooked.

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  4. I purchased a service berry, all excited about the beauty of the tree and the prospect of more berries to eat. We enjoyed them one year, and then the tree was infected with cedar-hawthorne rust the second spring, and the fruit is all covered with grossness. I am devastated!

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    1. I came across the rust on a few of the berries. Definitely a freaky sight!

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  5. I live just outside of Saskatoon so we get our fill of these berries every summer. The ones in my yard are still a month away from being ready. I make jam out of them with out removing the seeds. The end product has the same texture are raspberry jam and tastes pretty close to that too.

    Just beware of worms. Last year I used healthy perfect looking berries to make jam only to find little white worms in my jars after I processed them. Its a problem here and hopefully not where you are!

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    1. Yikes! Thanks for the head's up!

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  6. Saskatoon berries have always been my favorite! Here in Alberta they are ready the first weekend in August - I always go to the U-pick farm for 8 gallons and it usually lasts me the whole year between freezing and canning. I always leave the seeds in as well because they give the berries a nicer flavor. Also, you mentioned that some things always stay with you - saskatoon berries remind me of my childhood and picking berries in the forest with my Mom and sister.

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  7. There are cultivated varieties of Juneberries that might be even better if you like the wild ones.

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