Maybe you’ve already planted one of these 25- to 30-foot trees for its white or reddish spring blossoms and vibrant autumn foliage. If so, don’t overlook the tasty, edible fruit. The small blue, red, or white berries have a unique sweet flavor that hints of almond.
Juneberry trees and shrubs (Amelanchier spp.) grow wild throughout North America and are known by various other names, including saskatoon, shadblow, and sarvis or serviceberry. All species bear edible fruits, but the tastiest ones are found on the Allegheny serviceberry (A. laevis), the thicket serviceberry (A. canadensis), the saskatoon (A. alnifolia), and a hybrid, the apple serviceberry (A. grandiflora). Good varieties for fruit and beauty include ‘Ballerina’, ‘Cumulus’, and ‘Robin Hill’.
Plant your juneberry in well-drained soil in either full sun or partial shade. The trees are hardy in Zones 4 through 8, and need little care once they are established. If you see a few orange spots on the leaves, don't be alarmed. It’s probably rust, a disease spread from wild red cedars. You don’t need to take any special measures because the disease usually doesn’t harm the fruits.
Juneberries begin to bear fruits in their third or fourth year. Harvest them quickly—before they drop, dry up, or are eaten by the birds. You can eat them right off the tree or cook them, complementing their sweetness with one of the season’s tarter fruits, such as currants. For traditional American fare, cook juneberries with rhubarb, or pound the dried berries with meat (preferably buffalo) to make pemmican, a staple of the Native American tribes of the prairies.
Photo: (cc) Se Neko/Flickr