Back in the Day…
Historically, Saskatoon berries were a popular and widely used plant among many North American Indian tribes. The berries were a staple food, often the only kind of fruit available, and many Indian tribes held ceremonies and feasts to celebrate the beginning of the Saskatoon harvest.
Saskatoon Berry (Amelanchier alnifolia) is a wild fruit of Canadian Prairies grown
and enjoyed by the North Americans for hundreds of years.
Every part of the Saskatoon bush was put to good use!
The berry was eaten fresh or prepared in a variety of ways – steamed and mashed, made into cakes and dried into a brick-like consistency where pieces could be chopped off as needed and added to soups, stews or boiled to reconstitute them.
Young shredded shoots, mashed dried berries and dry leaves were used to make tea and dried Saskatoon Berries were a common item of trade.
Several parts of the shrub, including the roots, bark, stems, twigs and even the berries, were used medicinally to help treat many different ailments.
The wood of the Saskatoon bush was perfect for making arrows and other tools, basket frames and crosspieces for canoes.
Saskatoon berries were also popular with the European explorers and settlers
Often the only fruit available to early prairie settlers, Saskatoon Berries were an important food source to victims of drought and depression in the 1930's.
The green fruit were crushed and used to treat diarrhea and juice from the ripe berries was used as a laxative and to treat stomachache.
European settlers used the wood to make umbrella handles and fish poles.
The first commercial Saskatoon orchards were established in the early 1970's, and though it is difficult to get an accurate estimate of the total acreage of Saskatoons planted to date, it is known that a large portion of the orchards are U-pick operations for customers seeking berries for personal use.