The tiny, purple saskatoon berry played a key role in Native Americans’ and early settlers’ diets and commerce. Often dried and pounded into cakes or added to other essential foods such as pemmican, saskatoon berries were so prized for their sweetness that, according to one account from 1900, ten cakes of these tasty gems were worth one large buckskin.
Growing wild across Canada and especially the northern United States, the saskatoon is a bush, shrub, or small tree. After the plant blooms fluffy white petals in early spring, it develops clusters of green orbs that eventually turn intensely purple when ripe. Plucked in the summer, the berries are perfectly sweet and juicy, resembling fruit punch with a slight nuttiness from their tiny edible seeds. Chefs can use the fresh fruit to make pies, scones, and jam, or freeze, can, or dry the berries to break out a little summer sunshine later in the year.
Need to Know
Though there are many toxic doppelgängers of the edible blueberry (e.g., pokeberries, Canadian moonseed), the sweet and juicy saskatoon is often unfairly tossed into this category. Sprouting up in apartment complex courtyards and forests alike, the saskatoon shrub is a juicy little gem awaiting both urban and rural foraging.