The prairie regions of Canada aren’t as well known for their foods as the coastal and central regions of the country, but one food that most people have heard about is the Saskatoon berry. With the shape of a blueberry and a rich purple colour, the Saskatoon at its best is rich and almost nutty in flavour. When slightly less ripe it can be quite sour and astringent; Saskatoons are at their best when they are as ripe as possible. Saskatoon berries grow on a fairly robust woody bush, and the leaves can be made into a tea. The berry was very important to the indigenous people of the plains; they ate the berries fresh and also dried them into blocks for storage. The solid lumps of berries could be reconstituted in the winter months, or were powdered and mixed with bison meat to make pemmican.
Today Saskatoon berries are most often eaten as jam or in pies, and growers are trying to market the berry as a superfood, as they are very high in fibre and vitamins. I recently enjoyed a slice of Saskatoon pie, and was reminded of how wonderful this fresh and filling berry is. The town of Saskatoon, by the way, is named after the berry, which gets its name from the Cree word Misāskwatāmin.