Saskatoon berries (also known as serviceberries) are small, dark purple berries with a sweet, slight almond flavour and pleasant scent. In Kitchener-Waterloo, typically the Amelanchier arborea species is found, although there are many varieties that can be found in Ontario but they all give edible fruit.
If you’re foraging for Saskatoon berries, make sure you know what you are looking for, otherwise do not eat the berry! They grow on a small shrub/tree that can grow more than 10ft. In the springtime, the tree can be found having white flowers composed of 5 petals and oval shaped leaves. Ontario trees and shrubs has pictures of what the varieties of Saskatoon serviceberries look like and the regions where they are found.
Cooking with Saskatoon berries
Service berries can be used like they are blueberries and can be used to make a variety of foods.
If they are fresh, Saskatoon’s can be put directly in fruit salads, smoothies, parfaits and pies. For pies, a recipe on prairieberries.com ,recommends washing and drying them (gently!), then placing them evenly on the bottom pie crust then covered with a sugar and cornstarch slurry that will thicken the juices that come out of the berries as they cook.
Apart from freezing fresh Saskatoon’s for later use, you can increase the shelf life of your berries by making jams, syrups and fruit leather. The wonderful thing about making them at home is that you can control the sweetness of your product or maybe even add spices like cinnamon to ‘spice up’ your foodstuffs.
You can also make Saskatoon syrup, and either use it immediately after making them, or store them in a freezer that maintains the shape of the berry. You can also jar the syrup and boil it in some water. This is known as canning the syrup and it allows you to store the syrup at room temperature. Sauces made from Saskatoon berries can be stored in the same way.
Another way to use Saskatoon berries is to make fruit leathers from them using either a use a dehydrator or an oven. They make a great snack anytime and they last for a long time too! You can just need to store them in an airtight container or in the freezer. You can also try mixing them with other fruits to make different fruit combinations. The limit really is only your imagination!
Another preservation method is fermenting your berries. While fermentation of fruits is usually linked to alcoholic fermentation, it’s possible to lacto-ferment your berries and there are many resources on how to do this.