When it comes to seasonal produce in this province, you might be surprised at the number of fruit species grown. Did you know that pears, plums and cherries are grown in Alberta? Ever heard of the white strawberry that tastes like a pineapple called a pineberry? It grows here, too. Check out Prairie Gardens website for more info, and seek them out for their quality produce. They grow amazing stuff and it’s a great place to go to pick-your-own, too.
This Friday on CBC Edmonton AM, I spoke with Tara McCarthy about what’s in season on the fruit front. I focused on rhubarb and Saskatoons with a quick mention of haskaps, a blueberry-like fruit whose season has just finished. They look like an elongated blueberry, but they’re super juicy and have a deeper, sweeter flavour. Some grocery stores do carry them in the freezer section, though, so you can still get a taste, but if you want them fresh, make a note in your calendar to seek them out at U-picks or farmers’ markets end of June to mid July.
Alberta blueberries: The blueberries at markets right now are from B.C.; if you want Alberta blueberries, you’ll need to go hunting in the countryside. Wild blueberries are smaller than what you find in grocery stores and they have a more intense flavour than those commercially grown.
Saskatoons: These berries are usually found at farmers’ markets, U-pick farms or in the wild, and are native to the Canadian prairies although my research revealed they are grown all the way from Alaska to Maine and some southern States, too. I asked the Twitterverse their opinion on this oft maligned berry and most everyone replied with a definite love for it, which surprised me (most people have issues with the texture). What surprised me even more, was a couple of replies from people in the UK—one from an exuberant fellow who has been commercially growing the berry bushes there for a few years; the other from a customer of his who infused vodka with berries from a bush she bought from him. Saskatoon berries work very well in the world of spirits, as it turns out. Go to LiquorConnect.com, enter the word “Saskatoon” in the search bar and you’ll find drinkables like Saskatoon beer, vodka, mead and cider.
About that texture: Depending on the variety, the berries can be smaller, seedier, or bigger, fleshier and juicier. Thanks to Karlynn Johnston (the Kitchen Magpie) who chimed in on this.
Speaking of Karlynn, head on over to her site for some fantastic recipes including this one for Saskatoon Berry Sauce. Use that sauce on everything: crepes, ice cream, pancakes, or alongside ribs or any roasted meat.
I made a simple syrup (pictured above) by simmering 3 cups of berries with 2 cups of sugar and 2 cups of water for about an hour. The syrup performed exceptionally well in cocktails. I think you could cut the sugar in half and it would be just fine. Also, in this recipe, the berries are strained out at the end so that the liquid is smooth.
I purchased my fresh Saskatoon berries from Kindred Orchards at the Callingwood Market. These lovely folks also sell Saskatoon jam, jelly and syrup so if you want all the goodness without the effort, buying these ready-made products is the perfect solution. I used the jam to spread on fresh hot biscuits, and of course on toast.
The berries that were strained from the simple syrup were put to use in a flaugnarde (like a clafoutis but made with a fruit other than dark cherries) based on the recipe from Sean Bromilow of Diversivore.com. Because my berries were already cooked, they were heavier and settled close to the bottom of the pan. They also produced less juice during the cooking process which explains why my end result isn’t as purple as Sean’s. Still, it was a delicious endeavour and I wouldn’t hesitate to make it again with spent Saskatoon berries.
Finally, if you love the concept of using Saskatoon berries but don’t know what to do with them, just buy a bag, portion out the contents into containers and freeze them. You can do some research all winter long and use up your supply bit by bit.
Today, July 31, is Food Day Canada which means a day to celebrate Canadian food, like Saskatoon berries!, and the people who raise, grow and make these wonderful products. As always, I encourage you to support our famers and local producers all year long. We have much to celebrate.
To hear my CBC on-air segment about these wonderful berries, click here.