Ah, the Saskatoon Bush (Amelanchier alnifolia) and its delightful berries. The Saskatoon bush is a native Shrub that within canada grows from Western Ontario, thoughtout canada to the West Coast B.C. and up into the north as far as the yukon.
It would be very fair to say that for many peaple in the history of canada, that this was one of the most common eaten and preserved berry. Depending on what tribe lived were would have slightly different uses, the one I am most familiar with having grown up in alberta is using it as the dried fruit that is then crushed to be added to dried, pounded meat fibers mixed with fat to create energy balls that was then stored for both trips and winter food use.
From what I can see having harvested a good number of fruits, the saskatoon fruit is a ideal drying fruit as it tends to have a good thick meaty bite to it, a lot less moisture then others and yet it is round enough (its not truly round, its a touch flatter) that you can easily shake your drying basket with no need to flip or turn each one.
I planted Saskatoon Bushes the first spring I arrived on the farm, and was a bit surprised to find that the local store called them bird food. I have planted a number of them since and plan to add them to the pack garden as well. I remember picking this fruit with family and friends for many many years in my childhood and youth.. I love a good Saskatoon Pie, I think most folks who have tried it does 🙂
However in my family, most often it was put up into Saskatoon/Rhubarb fruit in the jars, this was a trick from my grandmother and my mother that allowed them to Stretch out small fruits flavour by combining it with a easy to grow/harvest and help fill up that jar of rhubarb fruit. This is still a great idea if you have a large family or are looking for a way to try rhubarb in new ways. Start with 50/50 but depending on the fruit you can go as low as small fruit at 25% to 75% rhubarb.
I noticed I had one small bag of our own grown and picked Saskatoon berries in the freezer door, the reason for this is that it was not enough on that picking to make a batch with, it was about a cups worth from the final picking and I had planned to use in mixed fruit batch that I never got to. Now as it happens I had cooked a large venison roast to med-rare and was making different meals out of it.
Saskatoon Compote 2 Servings (can easily double or triple this)
- 1 cup saskatoons
- 2 TBS of water
- 2 TBS of Sugar or Honey or monkfruit sugar replacement
- 1 tsp fresh grated ginger or minced ginger
- 1 TBS rice wine vinegar (or any other wine vinegar)
- 1 tsp of butter
- pinch of salt and pepper
In a small pot on med heat, add your fruit, sweetner an water, simmer gently as the fruit cooks, once it starts to soften, you are welcome to mash a bit of it up on the side of your pot to help some of them release their juice more. This will take about 6 to 10 min depending on the amount of fruit you are cooking and the size of it, anyone who has picked saskatoons will understand, sometimes they are tiny and sometimes they are huge.
Once you have your fruit cooked, then add your ginger, wine vinegar, butter and salt and pepper to taste, then drop your heat and simmer it down to your desired thickness. Be care to not burn it as it gets thicker, stir often, spoon over the meat and serve hot.
Don’t have access to saskatoon fruit? This could easily be made with Saskatoon Jam, Add Jam, ginger, vinegar, salt and pepper to taste and warm it up and then simmer it down to your desired thickness and spoon hot over your meat. This was delightful on Venison but would also be O so good on moose or duck, I expect it would be very good with grass fed beef as well.
Do you have saskatoons in your garden, food forest, hedge row or wild down the lane. What is your favorite way to use them? While they do best if they can get eight or more hours of daylight, they do very well as intermixed bush with half sun and half shade. They tend to produce smaller drier fruits on hot years unless watered but they will still produce and they are a very long lived bush, normally living between 30 to 50 years and they will sucker well meaning that you can replenish your plantings from your favorite flavored bushes into the next generations.
Saskatoon’s grow wild all around my place…and yes, for years I’ve used them as a ‘fruit extender’ for jams. It’s a good way to save money by combining with a more expensive fruit that I might purchase that doesn’t grow here 😊
what other kinds of wild fruit do you have that you also pick?
We’ve a good amount of wild blueberries, ‘twin berries’ (though I’m sure there’s another name for them – they’re not sweet but work with other berries), salmon berries. Not really a berry – but a tremendous glut of wild rose hips which as you would know from Alberta, have a ton of uses (I usually make jelly). I see you have game in your diet, I also make spruce tip jelly in the spring – it goes well with game. I’m careful not to strip the trees – nothing ticks me off as much as when somebody posts (on our local forage FB) entire grocery bags full of spruce tips. It’s like the have zero concept what they’re doing.
I love spruce tip jelly or syrup myself, so good! Ah, salmon berry, so good, I really liked cloud berries in the artic. so good
Hey Val, got a question for you…
When you say: “sometimes they are tiny and sometimes they are huge”, d’you mean the size of the fruit on one bush compared to another, or the size on the same bush from one year to the next (and more dependant on the weather)?
year to year is what i meant
Sorry! Reread the post and got part of the answer about weather/rain and berry size; but also wondering if some Saskatoon bushes just naturally bear bigger, or better-flavoured berries than others?
You did say about full sun to part shade tolerant, but also wondering what sort of soil moisture levels they prefer best? (Sun and shade I can play with, but there are no naturally moist or boggy spots on the property… :/)
saskatoons do not like wet feed, they do well in normal soil and grow in the dry area of praise soil just fine, they are quite tough in that way
yes they have breed better ones and nature also gives better ones, sometimes where they grow at soil wise also matters