Saskatoon Serviceberry is a medium-sized tree with gorgeous white flowers and sweet, purple-black fruits.
It is difficult to find a book about plants native to our bioregion that does not offer effusive praise for the Saskatoon Serviceberry. Doug Benoliel in Northwest Foraging says that the fruits are “Excellent . . . raw, cooked, or dried. The flavor makes for fine pies or jams, and a handful of fresh fruit livens up a bag of granola.”
The fruits of this medium sized, deciduous shrub appear to be highly valued by Native Americans wherever they were available. The excellent culinary quality of their berries makes them suitable for a wide range of uses - jams, compote, pie, dried like raisins, raw in salads, fermented into wines, beers, and ciders - use your imagination.
The fruits are highly nutritious and rich in antioxidants, flavonoids, and polyphenols putting them in the same category as other medicinal-edible berries like blueberry, aronia, and seaberry.
The Saskatoon Serviceberry is desirable for its superior foliage, flower, and fruit. In fall, the leaves turn crimson and yellow, creating bright splashes of color in an evergreen landscape. Their exquisite flowers are the purest of white and clusters of the dark, pea-sized berries nestle in the colorful foliage by late summer.
Their size can vary dramatically, in deep, rich soils with plenty of water they can reach 20 feet in height, in more marginal conditions they are a small spreading shrub, 3-6 feet in height. They will produce berries for up to 30 years.
Environment and Culture
The Saskatoon Serviceberry is native across a wide swath of northwestern America and Canada and extend their range all the way up to Alaska. They will provide value in your landscape grown on their own in full sun or as an understory shrub below Oregon White Oak, California Black Oak, California Foothill Pine, and Pacific Crab Apple. It can also be paired well with smaller fruiting shrubs like Salal, Golden Currant, Blackberry, Blackcap Raspberry and Salmonberry.
Saskatoon Serviceberries are also incredibly popular with the native wildlife. Their leaves and flowers are eaten by elk, deer, mice and rabbits. Pheasants, grouse, and black bears favor their berries and the winter buds are a staple food for the ruffed grouse. But don’t worry, they are prolific bearers and will provide delicious berries for you and your local wildlife.
Harvest, Care, and Preparation
Saskatoon Serviceberries are hardy plants that only need occasional attention. However, if you're after the biggest, sweetest berries, plant them in deep, rich soil and keep them watered through the summer.
Saskatoons ripen in early summer on the coast and late summer at higher elevations, but produce well in both locations. Great harvested straight off the plant on a warm August afternoon, but are even sweeter when dried. Try jams, jellies, and pies, or simply add a handful of dried or frozen berries to a glass of sparkling water for a healthy refreshing drink with a sweet aftertaste!
Native Range: CA, OR, WA, ID, BC, AK
USDA zones: 1-8
Ease of Care: Easy
Deer Resistance: Moderate
Light Requirements: Full Sun to Partial Shade
Soil Type: Tolerates most soil types, grows best in well drained soils.