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What are the facts? Again and again and again — what are the facts? Shun wishful thinking, ignore divine revelation, forget what "the stars foretell," avoid opinion, care not what the neighbors think, never mind the unguessable "verdict of history" — what are the facts, and to how many decimal places? You pilot always into an unknown future; facts are your single clue. Get the facts!
Robert A. Heinlein

Saskatoon Berries

Amelanchier alnifolia

Saskatoon Fruit Cluster

Yummacious! (Photo courtesy Saskatoon Berry Institute)


This shrub natively grows over a large part of North America. As a boy in Idaho I knew it as Serviceberry. That and Juneberry seem to be the most common names in the U.S. Saskatoon is Canadian, actually Cree, I think.

Locally wild Saskatoons seem to prefer south facing slopes, but I've found it as an understory shrub among the poplars. The leaves are distinctive: The end of the leaf near the stem is smooth. The other half is toothed.

The shrub typically grows 6-12 feet tall. Cultivars for fruit production are chosen from the shorter end of this range. One cultivar (Ovation) has been chosen for it's height and brilliant fall foliage. It's not a great producer, and is difficult to pick. But it is pretty.

Flowers are bee pollenated. Here on the farm it's usually bumble bees. Berries ripen in early July.

Saskatoons like their own company. Space fairly close in the row, and return their leaves to the base of the shrub in fall. I suspect there is a nutrient they can salvage from their leaves.

Best soil is sandy loam. Don't do well on poorly drained clay soils. If your soil is clay, plant them on a slope. This will improve drainage.

The berries are high in anthocyanins (responsible for the purple colour). There are a raft of polyphenols too -- antioxidants.

We currently carry three saskatoons:

Smoky This is one of the oldest commercial cultivars, and still accounts for most commercial production. Berries are often over 1/2" in diameter, and clusters tend to ripen evenly. 10-12 feet tall if you don't prune it.

Theissen Early bloomer, larger fruit, but ripens unevenly. Earlier ripening than Smoky.

Native These are seed propagated from wild harvested fruit. They still produce good fruit, but the berries will be much smaller than the commercial ones (typically 1/4" to 3/8") As is common with domestication, they are more strongly flavoured than their commercial cousins too.

On special order, I can get Honeywood, Lee #3, Lee #8, Northline, Martin, Nelson, Parkhill. If you want large quantities, I need a year's notice.

Pests

Somewhat susceptible to cedar-apple rust, with the saskatoon substituting for the apple. Do not plant cedars or junipers in close proximity. I've not heard of it being an issue here on the prairies, as we tend to be too dry. That said: I have two upright juninpers, and a native flat juniper about 75 feet away from a pair of saskatoons. So maybe I don't have any rust on either one of them.

Grasshoppers, rabbits and deer have been reported as pests. If you are going to fence the deer out, consider running turkeys to cope with the grasshopper problem -- you've got the fence anyway. Try with a heritage breed that is a bit brighter than some of the currently popular commercial breeds.


Sherwood's Forests is located about 75 km southwest of Edmonton, Alberta. Please refer to the map on our [Contact][5] page for directions.


Got something to say? Email me: sfinfo@sherwoods-forests.com

Want to talk right now? Talk to me: (8 am to 9 pm only, please) 1-780-848-2548


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Copyright © 2008 - 2017 S. G. Botsford

Sherwood's Forests is located about 75 km southwest of Edmonton, Alberta. Please refer to the map on our Contact page for directions.