Saska-what? Saskatoon! The saskatoon is a fruit bearing shrub that is commonly found in the North American Prairies. Until fairly recently, these berries, or pomes, could be picked only in the wild. The saskatoon resembles the blueberry but has a distinctive nutty flavor and carries all the same health benefits! Some have called the saskatoon, "the next blueberry"

Saskatoons get their name from Saskatoon, Saskatchewan (Canada) where they have been in cultivation for some time.  But don't let the name fool you; their botanical name is amelanchier alnifolia and there are native varieties in Michigan as well. Here we call them Juneberry or Serviceberry (yes, the same ornamental plant used in landscapes).

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Amelanchier alnifolia

Amelanchier alnifolia

Saskatoons in Bloom

Stoney Beach Farm

Old Mission Peninsula

Traverse City, Michigan

Scientific classification
















A. alnifolia

Binomial name

Amelanchier alnifolia
(Nutt.) Nutt.


  • A. florida Lindl.
  • A. pumila (Torr. & A. Gray) Nutt. ex M. Roem.
  • Aronia alnifolia Nutt.

Amelanchier alnifolia, the saskatoon, Pacific serviceberry, Western serviceberry, alder-leaf shadbush, dwarf shadbush, or western juneberry,[1] is a shrub with edible berry-like fruit, native to North America from Alaska across most of western Canada and in the western and north central United States. Historically it was also called "pigeon berry".[2] It grows from sea level in the north of the range, up to 2,600 m (8,530 ft) elevation in California and 3,400 m (11,200 ft) in the Rocky Mountains.[1][3][4]

Blossoms at Stoney Beach Farm


From 3 to 20 flowers are borne on generally crowded, short racemes.



The name derives from the Cree inanimate noun misâskwatômina (misâskwatômin NI sg saskatoonberry, misâskwatômina NI pl saskatoonberries).[5] The city of Saskatoon, Saskatchewan is named after the berry.


It is a deciduous shrub or small tree that can grow to 1–8 m (3–26 ft) (rarely to 10 m, 33 ft) in height. Its growth form spans from suckering and forming colonies to clumped.

The leaves are oval to nearly circular, 2–5 cm (0.79–2.0 in) long and 1–4.5 cm (0.4–1.8 in) broad, on a 0.5–2 cm (0.2–0.8 in) leaf stem, margins toothed mostly above the middle.

The flowers are white, about 2–3 cm (0.8–1.2 in) across; they appear on racemes of 3–20 together in spring while the new leaves are still expanding.

The fruit is a small purple pome 5–15 mm (0.2–0.6 in) in diameter, ripening in early summer in the coastal areas and late summer further inland.[3][4]


There are three varieties:[4][6]

  • Amelanchier alnifolia var. alnifolia. Northeastern part of the species' range.[7]
  • Amelanchier alnifolia var. pumila (Nutt.) A.Nelson. Rocky Mountains, Sierra Nevada.[8][9]
  • Amelanchier alnifolia var. semiintegrifolia (Hook.) C.L.Hitchc. Pacific coastal regions, Alaska to northwestern California.[10][11]

Cultivation and uses

Seedlings are planted with 13–20 ft (4–6 m) between rows and 1.5–3 ft (0.5–1 m) between plants. An individual bush may bear fruit 30 or more years.[12]

Saskatoons are adaptable to most soil types with exception of poorly drained or heavy clay soils lacking organic matter. Shallow soils should be avoided, especially if there is a high or erratic water table. Winter hardiness is exceptional but frost can damage blooms as late as May. Large amounts of sunshine are needed for fruit ripening.[12][13]

With a sweet nutty taste, the fruits have long been eaten by Canada's Aboriginal people, fresh or dried. They are well known as an ingredient in pemmican, a preparation of dried meat to which saskatoon berries are added as flavour and preservative. They are also often used in pies, jam, wines, cider, beers and sugar-infused berries similar to dried cranberries used for cereals, trail mix and snack foods.[14][15][16][17]

In 2004, the British Food Standards Agency suspended saskatoon berries from retail sales pending safety testing, a ban that was eventually lifted after pressure from the European Union.[18][19][20]

Canadian growers are currently moving to position saskatoon berries as a superfruit, following the vogue for such fruits as wild blueberries, cranberries, pomegranates, and açaí.[21]

Diseases and pests

Amelanchier alnifolia is susceptible to cedar-apple rust.[22]

Nutrients and potential health benefits

Ripening Saskatoons

Stoney Beach Farm


The 5–15 mm diameter pomes ripen in early summer.

Ripening Berries

Stoney Beach Farm



Resembling blueberries, the fruit has a waxy bloom.

Nutrients in raw saskatoon berries[14]


Value per 100 grams

 % Daily Value


85 kcal

Total dietary fiber

5.9 g


Sugars, total

11.4 g


Calcium, Ca

42 mg


Magnesium, Mg

24 mg


Iron, Fe

1 mg


Manganese, Mn

1.4 mg


Potassium, K

162 mg


Sodium, Na

0.5 mg


Vitamin C

3.6 mg


Vitamin A, IU

11 IU


Vitamin E

1.1 mg


Folate, mcg

4.6 mcg



3.5 mg


Panthothenic acid

0.3 mg



0.03 mg



20 mcg


Saskatoon berries contain significant Daily Value amounts of total dietary fibre, vitamins B2 (riboflavin) and biotin, and the essential minerals, iron and manganese, a nutrient profile similar to the content of blueberries.[14]

Notable for polyphenol antioxidants also similar in composition to blueberries,[14] saskatoons have total phenolics of 452 mg per 100 g (average of Smoky and Northline cultivars), flavonols (61 mg) and anthocyanins (178 mg),[14] although others have found the phenolic values to be either lower in the Smoky cultivar[23] or higher.[24] Quercetin, cyanidin, delphinidin, pelargonidin, petunidin, peonidin, and malvidin were polyphenols present in saskatoon berries.[14][25]

Particularly for saskatoon phenolics, inhibition of cyclo-oxygenase enzymes involved in mechanisms of inflammation and pain have been demonstrated in vitro.[26]