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Home > Features > Living Well > Food > Wild Garden > Juneberry

GreenSense- The Wild Garden


Juneberry, Amelanchier


Juneberries, Amelanchier (about 20 species), also called Serviceberries, Sarviceberries, or Shadbush, range from Newfoundland and Labrador across the North American Continent to the Gulf of Mexico. They ripen in May or June in the South and July and August in The North. As they ripen, they turn from green to red to purple. They're a delicious, versatile fruit. Use them raw, cooked, or dried. They're a member of the Rose family (Rosaceae), related to apples and raspberries. Like other Rose family members, they exhibit wide variations in the quality and quantity of fruit they bear. Because they blossom very early in the Spring, they are especially vulnerable to the damaging effects of late frost. Here in Vermont, that can mean the ruin of an entire year's crop. On a good year though, even one heavily bearing tree can provide all the berries you can eat.

If the tree is small enough, you can eat your fill just standing next to the tree- even if many of the berries are out of reach. Juneberry branches are very flexible, if you bend them correctly. Using this approach I commonly stand on the ground and pick berries 10 to 15 feet up in the tree: First locate a heavily-fruited branch. Next, reach as high as you can with one hand, grasp the branch and bend it just enough so you can grasp it a little higher with your other hand. Then repeat the process until you're holding the thin, flexible stems at the end of the branch. Now you can pull the fruiting stems down for comfortable picking. It's a good idea to strap a bucket at your waist. It doesn't hurt to have a partner, so one can hold the branch and the other can use both hands to pick. For really large-scale harvesting, the best method is to lay out several plastic sheets beneath the tree, then stand on the ground, (or, if the tree is big enough, climb up) and shake the berries off, branch by branch. If you shake carefully, only the ripe ones will fall. In a few days you can come back and harvest even more.

To clean the harvested berries, put them in a bucket and pour them down a "cleaning chute". To make the chute, you need an old blanket, a washtub, and 3 or 4 helpers. First, stretch out the blanket so that it slopes toward the ground. Place the washtub on the ground by the low end of the blanket. Now, hold the bucket of berries at the high end of the blanket and pour them onto the blanket so they roll down and land in the washtub. If you adjust the angle and height of the blanket just right, the leaves and twigs will stick to the blanket, the ripe berries will drop into the wash tub, and any any unripe berries, which roll faster, will overshoot the tub and land on the ground.

Because they tend to grow at the edge of the woods, mixed in with other trees, and because they bear fruit that can be hard to see against the darkness of the forest, you might expect that finding Juneberries would be a daunting task. And if you start looking in June or July, when they ripen, it is. But a little planning can turn the job into child's play. As it happens, the Juneberry tree is the first white-blossomed tree to blossom in the Spring (Click here for a large image of Juneberry blossoms. ), and it does this well before the leaves are on the trees. So, to assure a bountiful harvest of juneberries in June or July, all you need do is explore your locale when the trees blossom and mark the locations for later harvesting. A short walk or drive can net you dozens of them, glowing like beacons in the woods and hedgerows.


When you've had your fill of raw juneberries, try cooking them. The seeds have an almond flavor which is accentuated by cooking, making the berries an especially delightful ingredient in pancakes, pies, muffins, omelettes, and the like. Or simply put them in a pot with a little maple syrup or other sweetening, cook briefly, then eat as is or serve warm over something vanilla- ice cream, pudding, etc.

Other Uses:

(From Dan Moerman's Native American Ethnobotany Database)

A decoction of the roots was used to treat too frequent menstruation. (Gifford, E. W. 1967 Ethnographic Notes on the Southwestern Pomo. Anthropological Records 25:10-15)

A decoction of the bark was taken for stomach troubles. (Steedman, E.V. 1928 The Ethnobotany of the Thompson Indians of British Columbia. SI-BAE Annual Report #45:441-522)

A warm decoction was taken and used as a wash after childbirth. (Steedman, E.V. 1928 The Ethnobotany of the Thompson Indians of British Columbia. SI-BAE Annual Report #45:441-522 )

The petals, leaves and small stems were used to make a drink. (Kraft, Shelly Katheren 1990 Recent Changes in the Ethnobotany of Standing Rock Indian Reservation. University of North Dakota, M.A. Thesis)

The stems were used to make arrows. (Rogers, Dilwyn J 1980 Lakota Names and Traditional Uses of Native Plants by Sicangu (Brule) People in the Rosebud Area, South Dakota. St. Francis, SD. Rosebud Educational Scoiety)

The stems were made into hoops with leather covers to use in a game. (Rogers, Dilwyn J 1980 Lakota Names and Traditional Uses of Native Plants by Sicangu (Brule) People in the Rosebud Area, South Dakota. St. Francis, SD. Rosebud Educational Society)

A compound decoction was taken for gonorrhea. (Smith, Harlan I. 1929 Materia Medica of the Bella Coola and Neighboring Tribes of British Columbia. National Museum of Canada Bulletin 56:47-68)

The fruit was mashed, made into small cakes and dried for future use. (Waugh, F. W. 1916 Iroquis Foods and Food Preparation. Ottawa. Canada Department of Mines)






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