Some days we just like to take it easy. Rather than climbing a mountain, hiking to a beautiful lake, or exploring abandoned places, we decided to do something a little more pedestrian. This day we wanted to go berry picking, Saskatoon Berry picking, and the best place to do that is at the (where else), Saskatoon Farm near Okotoks.
This place is the Mecca of all things Saskatoon Berry (or “Toons” as we call them) and there is a large complex devoted to those little purple balls of yummy goodness. In addition to a huge u-pick field, there is a plant nursery (all kinds of plants and trees not just Saskatoons), a small restaurant, and other things to keep one busy.
The picking field is bustling place but since it is so large you’ll rarely run into anyone. Most people elected to stay near the front, so the pickings can be slim there. Instead, Connie and I know that heading directly to the back will give us both the choicest berries and solitude.
The Saskatoon bush is very resilient and it actually grows wild across Western Canada, typically along river beds and in low lying areas near water sources. Depending on many factors, the quality and quantity of berries can be spotty, meaning the fruit can be sometimes mealy and bland or there it little of it. In controlled conditions at the farm however, we are always assured the best berries, large, plump, juicy, and almost Blueberry like in flavour.
Each bush will produce a huge amount of fruit, allowing one to fill a bucket in no time. Picking the berries is easy – they grow in clusters and you can grab small handfuls at a time. Stick with the dark purple or red-ish purple berries, and only the plumpest ones at that, and avoid everything else. And for quality control, be sure to taste as you go. One for me, one for the bucket, one for me, one for the bucket – you get the idea.
Much revered by first nations in the area, these berries keep well and are quite versatile. They were often used in Pemmican, a mixture of shredded or pounded dried meat, animal fat, and dried berries. This combination would not spoil. They were also added to Bannock, or simply just eaten as is.
Of course, the berries are most often used as a healthy snack or for desert (Yummy, in a angle food cup with whipped cream) but we use them in others ways. I’ve included two of our favourite Saskatoon recipes below…
1 handful baby spinach.
1/2 cup cherry tomatoes, halved.
1/2 purple onion, chopped finely.
2 sliced hard boiled eggs.
5 slices crisply-cooked bacon (or Pancetta), chopped up.
2 tablespoons cashews, macadamia nuts or walnuts.
A small splash of Vinaigrette.
And of course…1/2 cup Saskatoon Berries.
In a bowl combine all ingredients and toss, then splash with the Vinaigrette salad dressing.
Toon Steak Sauce:
1/4 cup of red wine vinegar.
1/4 cup of molasses.
1/4 cup of store bought BBQ sauce.
1 finely chopped onion.
2 teaspoons of hot mustard.
2 teaspoons of freshly ground pepper.
And of course…2 cups Saskatoon Berries.
Combine all ingredients in a saucepan. Bring to a boil then over medium heat reduce and simmer, stirring occasionally, for about 10-15 minutes. Cool for an additional 10 minutes and liberally pour over the meat. This makes enough sauce for 4 average size steaks. Enjoy!
Saskatoons (sometimes called June Berries or Service Berries) typically fruit in June and often produce berries into late August. The berries, in addition to tasting good, are also quite good for you. Some say they are a super-fruit, like Acai Berries and the like. For long term storage, you can freeze the berries.
As of 2013, to pick a bucket cost $14. Quite reasonable. We brought along a picnic lunch along and made a fun day out of it.
You can add Saskatoon Berries to Bannock and to get that recipe, refer to the link below…
Traditional First Nations Bannock.
Check out this post…
Genealogists don’t let the truth get in the way of a good story.
If you wish more information on Saskatoon Berries, by all means contact us!
Date of adventure: August, 2013.
Location: Saskatoon Farm near Okotoks, AB.