Sunday, June 30, 2013

Saskatoon Raspberry Jam

I love nature. And I'm also that weirdo foraging berries in a park. People look at me and are like, da heck? Hey, stop staring, it saves me coin!

While I'm a native of Portland, Oregon, and while I (think I) know Portland like the back of my hand, I'm always discovering something new in the Portland Metro area. Sunrise Park, located in Troutdale, Oregon (close to the Sandy River as well as the Columbia River Gorge), is a neat little gem that I discovered only a few years ago. The view of Wy'East -- Mt. Hood's original Native name -- is stunning, and I've seen diverse wildlife at the park, including a Great Horned Owl, as well as Cedar Waxwings.

In a recent visit to Sunrise Park, something caught my eye that I had not noticed before: Saskatoons! (Amelanchier alnifolia). Saskatoons, based upon the Cree word for the plant, are known by other names such as Serviceberry and Juneberry, but it took me a while to identify them as I've never foraged for them before. As I tasted them for the first time, they reminded me of Salal with a slight almond taste, although they're much juicier. The juice stained my lips and left my fingers purple. (Unsurprisingly, the fruits are known to have been used as a dye historically by Native American Tribes, which I may try out sometime myself when dying some yarn... because that would be like, awesome, and stuff).

File:Amelanchier alnifolia 2802.JPG
 Saskatoons/Serviceberry (Amelanchier alnifolia). Photo from Wikipedia.

Saskatoons are fruits that are not exactly berries, but pomes, and were an important food staple for Northwest Tribes. They were eaten in a variety of ways, and often enjoyed fresh, dried, and mixed with pemmican. During the Lewis and Clark expedition, Meriwether Lewis documented the plant in the Dalles, Oregon. The fruits have medicinal properties and were historically used as such, aiding a variety of ailments.

As for my own adventures, I picked some of the fruits -- being sure to leave plenty out of each picking for Nature -- and went home, not sure of what to do with them. I didn't have enough for a pie, and I've been baking a ton of muffins lately, so something different was in order. After googling some ideas and finding this recipe, I decided to make a mixed jam with Raspberries from my garden. And it was basically the best decision, ever. Saskatoons are delicious!

Oh, yes.

For more information, please see:

Wild Berries of the West written by Betty B. Derig and Margaret C. Fuller

Edible and Medicinal Plants of the West by Gregory L. Tilford

American Indian Health and Diet Project

This post was written for educational purposes only. The information in this post is not intended to diagnose, cure, or treat any disease. Please see disclaimer: Not all berries are edible, and many are poisonous, so do not consume any berry/plant without being 100 percent positive of identification.

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