SHADBERRIES // The Local Food Report

A friend jogged by the other day, when Alex and I were walking home from picking shadberries. You might know the fruits as Juneberries, serviceberries, sarviceberries, Saskatoons, or the berries of shrubs in the Amalanchier genus. That's them up there, the gallon or so we picked on Saturday morning. 

What were you picking? she texted. We told her, and like most people we tell, she had no idea shadberries existed, or that you can eat them. We didn't either until a few years ago, but like most plant friends, now that we know shadbush, it's hard to imagine how we once didn't. It's native to the east coast, and it's everywhere. I pick the shrubs out visually by the way some of their leaves turn a golden orange early on in summer, almost as soon as they leaf out, and way before other foliage. 

Best of all, the shadbush berries are delicious—kind of like a cross between a beach plum and a blueberry, with small nutty seeds. Most of the time we just eat shadberries—they're so good, and also they don't keep that well—but in the rain this weekend I decided to experiment. I'd just talked about shadberries with Nat Taylor of Bird Haven for this week's Local Food Report, and prompted by that conversation Alex and I had gone out and picked a whole mess of the fruits. I found one recipe for Juneberry Jam and another for Saskatoon-Rhubarb pie, and before I knew it I'd torn through a bag of sugar. 

It was worth it. The shadberry-rhubarb pie was almost like a cherry pie, with hints of almond and a delightful gloppy-cherry texture. The jam was totally different—the color of blueberry jam, but with a flavor that was much plummier. 

So, cooked shadberries—a hit! We'll still probably eat most of the ones we pick in hand. But there's a new place in our summer routine for shadberry pie and shadberry jam. 


My favorite pie crust recipe comes from Yankee Magazine, linked here. As for the shadberries, look for fruits that are blushing from pink to purple. A blue-ish tinge is okay, too—just check the texture as some this color have gone too far. 

a top and bottom crust for a 9-inch pie
4 cups shadberries (Juneberries, serviceberries, Saskatoons, sarviceberries, shadblow berries, etc)
2 cups diced rhubarb
2/3 cup granulated sugar
juice of 1 lemon
1 tablespoon lemon zest
3 tablespoons cornstarch
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. 

Combine the shadberries, rhubarb, and sugar in a large saucepan. In a bowl, whisk together the lemon juice, lemon zest, and cornstarch until smooth. (Don't skip it—this helps avoid cornstarch lumps in the pie!) Add the cornstarch mixture to the fruit mixture and warm over medium heat, stirring often, until the mixture is thick—this should take about five minutes. 

Roll out the bottom crust, drape it over a 9-inch pie plate, and spoon in the filling. Trim the edges of the dough so there's a 1-inch overhang around the pie plate, roll out the top crust, and either drape over top and cut steam vents or cut and weave a lattice. Trim any dough so there's a 1-inch overhang of top crust, then roll the bottom and top crusts together around the rim of the pie plate. Brush with a little cream and sugar mixed together and bake for 20 minutes, then turn the oven down to 350 degrees F and bake for another 40 minutes, or until the pie is golden brown and the fruit filling is bubbling. 

We ate ours at room temperature with a scoop of homemade sour cream ice cream, a combination I highly recommend. 


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All text, photographs, and other original material copyright 2008-2010 by Elspeth Hay unless otherwise noted.