A useful tip for freezing berries.

If you’re looking to freeze berries without sugar and don’t want them to clump up in storage, try this method. Get a large baking sheet and line it with a piece of baking parchment. Wash the berries well and pick out any stems and other debris (including insects!). ūüėČ Spread the berries in a single layer on the baking sheet and pop the sheet, uncovered, into a large freezer for at least six hours. Remove the baking sheet and immediately pack the berries into storage bags. Label the bags and put them back into the freezer until use. The berries freeze individually, which makes them easier to work with and measure out when you want to use them in baking and cooking. This method works supremely well for fruits such as blueberries, raspberries, currants, saskatoons, and haskap (pictured – this was part of a haul I picked on a very cold, damp day a few weeks ago on a farm outside of Calgary. I was shivering so much a few not-quite-ripe ones snuck in, LOL).

Prairie gardening tip: How to improve pollination of fruit trees.

Proper siting is key!

If you plan to grow fruit trees and shrubs that are pollinated by insects such as bees, consider your site carefully before you plant. If you are thinking about putting the plants in a windy, exposed site, your plants may not receive their very best chances at pollination. Bees don’t like working in the wind! (It totally ruins their hairdos). Instead, choose a more sheltered location to encourage the bugs to do their jobs in calmer conditions.

Saskatoon (Amelanchier alnifolia) – site this small fruit tree or shrub out of the wind, if possible. Saskatoons are self-fertile, but there is the potential for higher yields of fruit if bees visit….

Do you grow any fruit trees or shrubs? I’d love to hear about them (it doesn’t matter if you live on the prairies or not!). What do you like best about them? Is there anything about them that you find challenging?

Sunday spotlight: Saskatoon.

The Elbow River at Weaselhead Natural Area, Calgary

My hubby and I went for a really, really, REALLY long walk in the Weaselhead Natural Environment Area in southwest Calgary last Monday.¬† While I¬†admit, I was the one who¬†suggested that we take a right turn when we ought to have taken a left, it was such¬†a splendidly warm day and the¬†Weaselhead¬†is so wonderful¬†to explore, that¬†our¬†lengthy detour didn’t matter.¬†¬†The Elbow River¬†lazily runs through the park en route to¬†the Glenmore Reservoir, and apparently¬†forms large¬†mud flats which canoeists ply in the heat of summer.¬†¬†At this time of year, the¬†river is¬†comparatively high, pooling in the backwaters, unburdened with heavy¬†silt.

Drifts of golden¬†buffalo beans¬†(Thermopsis rhombifolia) and wild violets (Viola adunca)¬†marked our route, but I was most¬†delighted to come across so many saskatoon¬†shrubs (Amelanchier alnifolia)¬†in bloom – it means there¬†should be plenty of berries in a couple of months!¬† Saskatoon berries are such a huge treat –¬†other¬†than eating them by the handful straight off the bush,¬†there is absolutely nothing, I repeat¬†nothing,¬†better than a¬†gigantic slice of homemade saskatoon pie.¬† ¬†If you’ve never eaten saskatoons, they look and taste a little like blueberries, except they contain crunchy tiny seeds that give them a delicious wild texture and slightly nutty¬†flavour.¬† They’re sweet and juicy and full of vitamins and antioxidants.

Saskatoon in flower

An extremely hardy North American native with over¬†twenty species, this member of the rose family goes by a myriad of common and regional names:¬† Pacific serviceberry, western serviceberry, sarvisberry,¬†alder-leaf shadbush, dwarf shadbush, shadblow, Indian pear,¬†and sugar pear.¬†¬† I’m not sure where the “pear” references come in, as the fruit doesn’t resemble pears even with a huge application of imagination, but the¬†term “shadbush” apparently¬†came about because the flowering time of the shrub coincides with the migration of¬†shad fish in certain waters.¬Ļ¬†¬†Here in Alberta, we use the English form of the¬†original¬†Cree name mis-sask-qua-too-mina, saskatoons.

Do you grow saskatoons in your garden?  What is your favourite way to eat saskatoon berries? 


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