Identification difficulty: Beginner
This year, the sheer abundance of berries made them impossible to ignore. For the past 3+ weeks, I have made berry pancakes, berry drinks, various breads and muffins, added berries to frozen banana "ice cream" and even made a sweet and spicy sauce with mulberries and chipotle for chicken. (I'll get around to a mulberry post soon, I promise!)
The Juneberry is a variety of Amelanchier which happens to ripen in June. Other varieties will ripen throughout the summer, and might be known by other names, such as Serviceberry or Shadbush. I have not encountered these other varieties, but then, I was never really looking either. Juneberries are frequently planted in urban and suburban areas, since they have very attractive blossoms in the spring. They are also abundant in the wild.
|Amelanchier bloom in April, which has lead to the name|
"Shadbush" (blooms when the shad run).
|The fruit here, in late May,|
is about a week from being ripe
The fruit is purple-black when ripe, red when unripe, and has a crown. A crown is the "fringe" on the ends of the berries.
I would feel pretty confident on the safety of ID-ing Juneberries, since Steve Brill says that no North American fruit with a crown is poisonous.Good to know!
The bark of tree or shrub (the plant can appear as either) is silvery grey or blackish, and it apparently frequently features vertical striations, but that wasn't the case with my trees.
|Birds also like to leave the remains of |
consumed Juneberries on my bistro table.
Though I frequently see a lot of them, this year Juneberries seemed particularly abundant. I harvested a quart in about 10 minutes, from only the lowest branches of very small trees. The 5 trees on my street produced several gallons of fruit over the course of 9 days or so, with total harvesting time under 2 hours.
Books will tell you that Juneberries can be used like blueberries, and some will say that they taste better than blueberries. With these as my only sample (some varieties in other locations might taste better), I would have to disagree, but they certainly tasted good. The flavor is mild, and unique, but I would say it has notes of grape, cherry and blueberry.
Sam Thayer and Steve Brill both claim the seeds, which are soft enough to eat, have an almond flavor, but I didn't get that at all. To me they tasted almost like a vegetable, but with a slightly bitter aftertaste that made eating large amounts unpleasant.
Thayer recommends drying the fruit, and I intend to try that if I find more fruit as other varieties ripen later in the summer. I'll keep you posted.