The Saskatoon is an under-rated berry. A relative of the blueberry, (you can tell by the star-shaped petals on the berry) the plumper, seedier Saskatoon just doesn’t get the attention or the kudos it deserves. From blossom time onward, it’s a beautiful bush, and there are loads of them right here in the city, going ignored and unsung. (Strawberry season gets all the attention.)
That’s a shame, because Saskatoon berries are tasty, with real body, and they’re copious on a shrub that’s reached decent size. Unlike blueberries, you don’t have to bend over to pick them.
They vary by the day as they’re coming into ripeness: these reddish ones are not ready yet, as tempting as they look. If you try to pick them, they won’t pull away from the stem, and if you tug them off impatiently and try to eat them you’ll find them a little hard and bland. But by the time they start purpling up, like the ones in the background above, they’re juicy, with a deep, rich taste, and they come away from the stem easily.
It’s a great lesson in patience. You have to wait to get the really good ones. And the Saskatoon berry bush is obliging; not all the berries are ripe at once, as you can see in this close-up. (Note the empty stems, where I plucked some luscious purple ones.) So there’s a good week or more of harvesting from a single bush like the one in our backyard here.
The funny thing is, Saskatoon berry bushes are everywhere in the city, and people don’t seem to know you can eat them. I frequently eat great handfuls of them from the bushes on people’s lawns. I’ve taught a few people about them, including a homeowner who was a little astonished to see me standing on the sidewalk in front of his place, eating berries off his Saskatoon berry bush. He thought they were just ornamental.
Even the robins don’t seem to eat many of them. There’s a pair of robins that drop in around here this time of year, and they were all over the bush last week, checking them every day to see if they were ripe (I’ve written about finding berries bitten by robins in this way before). I worried they’d get most of the crop. But they haven’t made a dent, other than the little triangular ones they leave when they bite an unripe berry. Maybe a robin doesn’t eat many berries, with all the bugs and worms they eat. Or maybe they find the seeds difficult.
Anyway, there are lots to go around. This year we’re enjoying the best Saskatoon berry harvest yet. Checking a previous blog post, I calculate I planted the tree four years ago. It came with berries on it, and the berries have increased every year since. This year, I’m easily getting a bowl full of them every day without much effort. We could, if we chose, go so far as to make pie.
But we’re not. We’re eating them by the handful. That’s something you can only do when you have a LOT of Saskatoons, and this is the first year we’ve been able to do it. They’re tasty anyway, browsing them from the branches, but Saskatoons by the handful are heavenly. There’s a world of flavour there you can only taste when your mouth is full of berries.
So that’s what I’m doing when I come home from work these days: picking Saskatoon berries, filling up a bowl, and then we eat them by the handful. They’re delicious. Lucky us.
Imagine, all that bounty, hanging off bushes, ripe for the picking, and people walking by, oblivious.