Grapes and Berries

Saskatoon

Saskatoon. Photo courtesy Shelmerdine Garden Centre. Click image to enlarge.

This berry, also known as the Shad or Serviceberry, needs no introduction to Prairie people. A member of the apple family, its fruits can be eaten fresh or dried. They are an ingredient in pemmican, added to both provide flavour and serve as a preservative.

Honeyberry

(Blue Honeysuckle, Haskap Berry)
Honeyberry.
Photo courtesy Shelmerdine Garden Centre. Click image to enlarge.

To the Ainu people of northern Japan termed this berry was the Haskap; the “berry of long life and good vision.” It is found in the boreal forest throughout the northern hemisphere. Cultivars of this berry have been developed at the University of Saskatchewan, and the fruit tastes of a wonderful combination of the flavours of blueberry, blackcurrant, and raspberry.  It makes great pies and jellies.

Highbush Cranberry and Nannyberry

Highbush Cranberry.
Photo courtesy Shelmerdine Garden Centre. Click image to enlarge.

Related to the Elderberry, rather than the cranberry, these shrubs can grow up to four metres tall. Traditional uses for different parts of the plant include pain reliever, relief for sore throats and menstrual cramps. The somewhat bitter fruit is used for jams, jellies, and syrups.

Lingonberry

(Lowbush Cranberry, Bog Cranberry, Partridge Berry)
Partridge Berry
Courtesy Minnesota Wildflowers, credit Peter M. Dziuk. Click image to enlarge.

In the northern boreal forest, Lingonberry is the third most important fruit after blueberry and cloudberry. It can be used in making pemmican, or cooked with grease to make a kind of ketchup, stewed into a sauce to eat with meat or fish. Medicinally the berries were eaten to reduce fevers, or used in hot packs to treat swelling, aches, and pains. The leaves were used to stretch tobacco. Berry juice can be used to create dyes for porcupine quills.

Gooseberry

Gooseberry.
Photo courtesy Shelmerdine Garden Centre. Click image to enlarge.

The Cree have many medicinal uses for both the berries and the leaves of the wild gooseberry. In addition, the thorns have been used as needles for probing blisters and in tattooing. The berries can be eaten fresh or used to make excellent jams and pies. There are many theories about origin of the name, none of which involve geese!

Dogwood

Dogwood. Photo courtesy Shelmerdine Garden Centre. Click image to enlarge.

Dogwood berries are beloved by birds, rather than by humans. There are many uses for different parts of the dogwood; the flexible branches have been to weave baskets and make rims for birchbark containers.

Bush Honeysuckle

Bush Honeysuckle.
Photo courtesy Shelmerdine Garden Centre. Click image to enlarge.

As with the Dogwood, the berries of the Bush Honeysuckle are more preferred by birds rather than by humans. The berry’s juice can be used to make dyes or face paints. Other parts of the plant have a variety of medicinal uses.

Wild Grape

Wild Grapes.
Photo courtesy Shelmerdine Garden Centre. Click image to enlarge.

Leif Ericsson, Old Norse explorer, named the area of North America (Newfoundland, and Gulf of St. Lawrence) where he landed in 1000 CE, Vinland, after the abundance of Wild Grape vines that he found.  European grape-growers saved the destruction of their vineyards by their vines onto pest resistant North American rootstock.