Food

Saskatoon Berries— Wild Little Berry with Potential

Fresh saskatoon berries. Not as juicy as blueberries but just as healthy and sustaining as they have been for North American aboriginal diet for centuries.

Fresh saskatoon berries. Not as juicy as blueberries but just as healthy and sustaining as they have been for North American aboriginal diet for centuries.

Until I came to Alberta, I never saw containers of many fresh Saskatoon berries in either British Columbia nor Ontario.  Only occasionally, I saw saskatoons already processed in jams, jellies, salad dressings or pies at a  farmers’ market or at a gourmet food shop. I might have had a Saskatoon berry pie slice once upon a time.

Power Berry for North American Aboriginals
This tiny dark purple-blue berry does grow in both of those provinces also. But the

Bison ready to serve, cooked in onions with saskatoon berry and wine sauce. Photo by J. Chong

Bison ready to serve, cooked in onions with saskatoon berry and wine sauce. Photo by J. Chong. Dish creation by HJEH Becker.

cultural lore of Saskatoon berries seem to reside most with the prairie aboriginals, the Cree and Blackfoot First Nations with some use by the Salish along the west coast who seem to have far greater access to different types of berries.

The berry’s name is derived from the Blackfoot, “misaskatomina”  or from the Cree, “misaskquahtoomina”.   Other common names are: serviceberry, juneberry or amelanchier (French).

Saskatoon berry bushes can grow in slightly dry or open forest areas, preferably with some soil drainage, sun, and can even withstand a bit colder temperatures in sub-alpine regions.

Unlike blueberries, saskatoon berries have a drier, slightly more earthy, yet still fruity taste. Perhaps one of the reasons why people aren’t scooping up handfuls of saskatoons to eat,

Saskatoon jam and syrup -- first 2 products on the left. Calgary Farmers' Market 2011.

Saskatoon jam and syrup — first 2 products on the left. Calgary Farmers’ Market 2011.

is that they are abit more expensive.  However, they cost no more than raspberries during peak harvest  –at least, in Alberta.   Only within the past decade or so, some provinces now realize its market fresh value and have started to lay cultivated trees systematically for the berry hungry food locavores.  Most notably, Manitoba and Saskatchewan’s agriculture and agritourism divisions have paid attention by deploying more technical information for potential farmers and general public marketing campaigns.

Saskatoon berry scone at Wild Grainz Bakery, Calgary AB  --just a short bike ride away from downtown. 2011. Photo by J. Chong

Saskatoon berry scone at Wild Grainz Bakery, Calgary AB –just a short bike ride away from downtown. 2011. Photo by J. Chong

One wonder about the gaps in knowledge transfer on a wide scale  where this berry and its shrub parts, were used for centuries in many different ways by the aboriginals –food, medicine and accoutrements, such as pipes. But such knowledge is becoming increasingly lost on how to even distinguish this berry, as well as other edible berries from poison in the woods.

We bought our first ever, overflowing box of fresh berries from Saskatoon Farms’ stand at the Calgary Farmers’ Market.

Fresh salad at home with yogurt fig balsamic, saskatoon berry and Dijon mustard dressing.

Fresh salad at home with yogurt fig balsamic, saskatoon berry and Dijon mustard dressing.

The saskatoons proved to be elegant when cooked into a dark wine sauce with our bison and sautéed kohl rabi on the side.  Also the berries complemented a balsamic fig vinegar and Dijon mustard salad dressing that Jack invented on the fly.   Then our remaining berries were frozen to lengthen our summer memories of sun-bright prairies and these twinkling wee berries of potential.

Interesting Reading:
Article by the British Columbia Ministry of Forests for details on ethnobotany of Saskatoon berries  and its different uses by the aboriginals. More extensive scientific information from the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

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8 thoughts on “Saskatoon Berries— Wild Little Berry with Potential

  1. For a while there, I thought, “Why are her blog posts not showing up on my feed?” It was because I never subscribed. I just realized that today. I love coming here and just reading about your experiences and looking at the wonderful pictures. And just so I won’t miss any more posts in the future, I have subscribed.

  2. I love Saskatoons and have many fond memories of picking them when we were kids.My aunts used to dry the leaves and berries to make tea. Saskatoon berries contain anthocyanins natural antioxidants and I have a sibling who brings us freezer packs of berries when he visits. Then my husband makes Saskatoon berry pie. Your historical inclusion was excellent read, and that salad salad with yogurt fig balsamic, saskatoon berry and Dijon mustard dressing made my mouth water.

    • I didn’t know that saskatoons even existed when I lived in Ontario. Another sign of regional differences in vegetation and fruits in different areas of Canada. I’m sure we’ll buy some berries to pack away next summer!

      • We had an Granny Smith apple and Sasaktoon berry pie last weekend. It was so delicious with ice cream on top. It reminded me of this post so I popped in to recommend that combination to you. :)

        • I wouldn’t have thought of combining apple and saskatoons together but their slight tartness probably complement each other. No doubt there were some warm, spicy seasonings to perk up the baked fruit. :) Sounds delicious!

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