Look on any rural road around Salmon Arm these days and you will see saskatoon bushes laden with fat, juicy berries.
Saskatoons resemble blueberries but are actually a relative to the apple. They have a fruity-nutty flavour and are very nutritious. High in fiber, iron, calcium, manganese, magnesium and potassium, their deep blue colour indicate they are also high in anthocyanins, an antioxidant. Antioxidant-rich foods are known to have anti-cancer and anti-inflammatory effects on the human body.
Saskatoon berries, or speqpeq7u’w’i, have always been celebrated by the Secwepemc people as they were the first fresh berry to come into season after a long winter of eating mostly dried and preserved foods. The First Fruit ceremony was held at the beginning of each picking season to show appreciation for the crop that was about to harvested. The chief announced the beginning of each berry picking season and people would gather and set up camp at the different picking sites. Enough berries would be collected and dried to ensure that everyone in the community could survive the long winter months.
Whether you are looking to connect with our rich Secwepemc culture or simply to have a nutritious snack, this is a great year to gather Saskatoon berries. They continue to ripen after you pick them, so don’t worry if you pick some pinkish ones. Once washed and dried, they can be frozen, canned, dried or added to baked goods, but taste best fresh. The leaves can be steeped into tea. Saskatoons are easy to pick, as they have no thorns, flexible branches and hang in clumps. Recruiting friends and family who are tall or have long arms is always strategic. A great activity to do with children, be warned that they will be a detriment to your crop as they can eat them just as fast as you pick them!