Harvesting Juneberries: How And When To Pick Juneberries
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By: Liz Baessler
Juneberries, also known as serviceberries, are a genus of trees and shrubs that produce an abundance of edible berries. Extremely cold hardy, the trees can be found all across the United States and Canada. But what do you do with all that fruit? Keep reading to learn more about how and when to harvest juneberries, and how to use juneberries in the kitchen.
When to Pick Juneberries
There’s a secret clue to juneberry harvest time. Have you spotted it? Juneberries tend to be ready to pick sometime around – wouldn’t you know it – June (or July) here in the U.S. Of course, the plants have a very broad range (across most of North America), so the exact time for harvesting juneberries varies somewhat.
As a rule, the plants bloom in early spring. The fruit should be ready to pick 45 to 60 days after that. The berries ripen to a dark purple color and look a lot like a blueberry. When ripe, the fruits taste mild and sweet.
Keep in mind that birds also love eating juneberry fruit, so it may be worth your while to put up nets or cages over your bush if you want a substantial harvest.
How to Use Juneberries
Juneberry fruit is popular eaten fresh. It can also be made into jellies, jams, pies, and even wine. If picked when just a little under ripe, it has a tartness that translates well into pies and preserves. It also has a higher vitamin C content.
If you’re planning to eat the berries plain or squeeze them for juice or wine, however, it’s best to let them get dead ripe (dark blue to purple and a little bit soft) before picking them.
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Amelanchier Species, Common Serviceberry, Downy Serviceberry, Juneberry, Sarvis Tree
Average Water Needs Water regularly do not overwater
USDA Zone 4a: to -34.4 °C (-30 °F)
USDA Zone 4b: to -31.6 °C (-25 °F)
USDA Zone 5a: to -28.8 °C (-20 °F)
USDA Zone 5b: to -26.1 °C (-15 °F)
USDA Zone 6a: to -23.3 °C (-10 °F)
USDA Zone 6b: to -20.5 °C (-5 °F)
USDA Zone 7a: to -17.7 °C (0 °F)
USDA Zone 7b: to -14.9 °C (5 °F)
USDA Zone 8a: to -12.2 °C (10 °F)
USDA Zone 8b: to -9.4 °C (15 °F)
USDA Zone 9a: to -6.6 °C (20 °F)
USDA Zone 9b: to -3.8 °C (25 °F)
Where to Grow:
Soil pH requirements:
From semi-hardwood cuttings
From seed direct sow outdoors in fall
From seed stratify if sowing indoors
Remove fleshy coating on seeds before storing
Allow unblemished fruit to ripen clean and dry seeds
This plant is said to grow outdoors in the following regions:
Hillsborough, North Carolina
Wilkes Barre, Pennsylvania
Nashville, Tennessee(2 reports)
On Jul 29, 2015, Rickwebb from Downingtown, PA wrote:
This Downy Serviceberry is barely different from the Alleghany Serviceberry, A. laevis, that also is a tree form with usually a few to several trunks. This species does not have the unfolding leaves in spring with a bronzy color, but it does have a tomentose hairiness under the leaves, especially in spring, and some on top. There is a little hairiness on the flowers too. Otherwise, I saw one once and it seemed to have just slightly bigger leaves that drooped a little bit and seemed a little less ornamental than the other species. The Alleghany and hybrids of Alleghany x Downy = A. grandiflora, are the ones really sold at nurseries most also being cultivars. Some native plant nurseries may have this straight species. It has a similar native range as the Alleghany, being about Maine to Iowa. read more down to Louisiana and northern Florida, a little farther south and a little less far north.
On Jun 2, 2012, CacophonyArt from Greensboro, NC wrote:
I was given some juneberries from a friend who bought them from seeds and is growing them. She gave them to me so I could collect the seeds and grow my own. I'm having a hard time finding info about seed saving of this plant. I saw your note about stratify and looked that up. I'll do that but I wasn't sure about your note regarding removing the "fleshy coating" from the seeds before storing. Do you mean the berry flesh/meat or is there another layer? (kinda like tomatoes have that sac layer). You've got me here with a small knife and a flea sized seed trying to see if there's more goodies inside it that I need to "release". oh, I think I'm making this to hard!
On Jan 11, 2011, lindera42 from Keymar, MD wrote:
This small tree grew and fruited beautifully for us in northern Massachusetts. We loved it so much that we are trying it again here in northern Maryland. Our current tree was planted only last fall so I don't know how it will do here, but it came from a local nursery that specializes in native plants. I have my fingers crossed that cedar apple rust won't spoil the fruit for birds. It was not a problem in MA, but I see it occurs here.
On Jan 10, 2011, keferraro from Crown Point, IN wrote:
The bird you are seeing eating the service berries is probably a cedar waxwing. In my area I have found that, in the spring, they swarm crabapples and eat the fruit that remains on the tree after a winter of freezing and thawing. I can certainly see how the fruit would be fermented and lead to drunken behavior!
On Jan 10, 2011, brunkenrl from Bayfield, CO wrote:
We have serviceberry trees all over our 10 acres east of Durango, CO. Our home is at 8,000 ft. and they grow everywhere around here. Have tried to eat but found them rather bland. However, every fall when the berries are ripe there is a certain gray and yellow bird that loves these berries and generally get "drunk" on them and fly into our large front windows. Believe they see the tree in the glass and think it's another tree. have to cover the windows during this time (about 3 weeks) because we have found up to 6 dead birds per day. Rather funny to watch these birds as they will literally fall out of the trees!
On May 3, 2010, Yooper1 from Atlantic Mine, MI wrote:
Here in western Upper Michigan, Juneberry (locally called "sugar plums" by many) trees grow just about everywhere. They seem to be in the highest concentrations along the old railroad grades.
They seem to grow tall like a tree, where the berries are high off of the ground, if they are in an area where they must compete for sunlight. If they are in an open area, they seem to grow more like an extremely large bush, with a good number of berries at an easy picking height.
On Jul 13, 2007, wamccormick from Lindale, TX wrote:
Sarvis trees grow plentifully on my brother-in-law's farm in Crossville, TN under dense forest. The berries are sugar sweet, but the birds get most of them, since most of them are up out of reach. I am wanting to try them in East Texas, but I do not know their chill requirements.
On Nov 24, 2006, frostweed from Josephine, Arlington, TX (Zone 8a) wrote:
Downy Serviceberry, Shadblow, Juneberry, Sarvis Tree, Amelanchier arborea is native to Texas and other States.
On Apr 20, 2005, ishlaa from Taylor, AZ wrote:
The plant that I have is a small shrub growing only 2 feet tall at the most. The berries are very sweet and my wife and I fight to see who gets to pick them. I propigated them by digging up suckers and transplanting them.
On Aug 31, 2001, smiln32 from Oklahoma City, OK (Zone 7a) wrote:
Downy serviceberry is a deciduous, early-flowering, large shrub or small tree which typically grows 15-25' tall in cultivation but can reach 40' in the wild. A Missouri native plant that occurs most often in open rocky woods, wooded slopes, and bluffs. Features 5-petaled, showy, slightly fragrant, white flowers in drooping clusters which appear before the leaves emerge in early spring. The finely-toothed, obovate leaves exhibit good fall color. Flowers give way to small, round green berries which turn red and finally mature to a dark purplish-black in early summer. Edible berries resemble blueberries in size and color and are often used in jams, jellies and pies. Amelanchiers are commonly called juneberries.
North Dakota Juneberry Pie
Prepare Pastry for a Single-Crust Pie. On a lightly floured surface, use your hands to slightly flatten dough. Roll dough from center to edge into a 12-inch circle. Wrap pastry circle around rolling pin unroll into a 9-inch pie plate. Ease pastry into pie plate without stretching it. Trim pastry to 1/2 inch beyond edge of pie plate. Fold under extra pastry even with edge of plate. Crimp edge as desired. Do not prick pastry.
For filling, in a large bowl, stir together the 1/2 cup sugar and the 1/4 cup flour. Add berries and lemon peel toss gently to coat. (If using frozen berries, let mixture stand about 45 minutes or until berries are partially thawed but still icy.) Transfer mixture to the pastry-lined pie plate.
For crumb topping, in a medium bowl, stir together the 1/2 cup flour and the 1/3 cup sugar. Using a pastry blender, cut in butter until mixture resembles coarse crumbs. Stir in almonds. Sprinkle evenly over filling.
To prevent overbrowning, cover edge of pie with foil. Bake in a 375 degree F oven for 25 minutes (or 50 minutes for frozen berries). Remove foil. Bake for 30 to 35 minutes more or until filling is bubbly and topping is golden brown. Cool on a wire rack. Makes 8 servings.
To save time, use half of a 15-ounce package (1 crust) rolled refrigerated unbaked piecrust instead of the homemade pastry. Let stand according to package directions before easing into pie plate.
Juneberries, Service Berries or Shadbush: The blue-black, round berries, which are red before they ripen, are about 1/4-1/3 inch across, the size of blueberries, which they resemble. They even have the crown-frilled opening on the end away from the fruit stalk. Inside are soft, teardrop-shaped, reddish-brown seeds that have a nutty, almond flavor. Juneberries are a great surprise the first time you try them. With no similar commercial relatives, these delicious berries, related to apples, are quite unique. Although they'd been sold in the marketplace in the past, they're almost completely forgotten today. The fruit has a strong, sweet and penetrating flavor, a little like pears. Make your favorite blueberry muffin recipe using juneberries. It will be different and fantastic. I've made my best cobblers with this fruit. They also make great jam. They contain pectin, so you don't need much thickener.
I've seen AB be hammered by rust, too - here in KY & IN. Some say that if there are junipers within 5 miles, and they're carrying the appropriate strain of the rust fungus, that you'll see rust disease on susceptible hosts.
I've got some row-run seedling A.x grandiflora plants, been in the ground since 2000 that are about 10 ft tall and fruiting well now - I saw maybe a dozen rust-affected fruits while picking a gallon of tasty berries from them a few weeks back.
I've grown a dozen or so A.alnifolia selections - Regent, Smokey, Theissen, Honeywood, etc., as well as A.obovata "Jennybelle" and they all get hammered - fruit & foliage they're hanging in there, but really look like the tail end of misfortune. However, I've got a couple of row-run seedlings of Timm & Success that I got as tiny(4" plants) 12 years ago from the now-defunct Bear Creek Nursery that have been vigorous, healthy, and productive with virtually no rust on the foliage or berries - but I usually forget about them until the birds have almost cleaned 'em out.
Perhaps you'll luck up with one or more of your alnifolia seedlings.
My wife was so impressed with the fruits from the grandiflora seedlings this spring, that I'll be trying my hand at rooting some cuttings and grafting some onto apple & hawthorn rootstocks next spring.
Hey Lucky, are the A.x grandiflora seed plants from a named cultivar? I've started seeds of Autumn Brilliance, but they may be replicas of the parent, as I see no other Amelanchiars around. Thats great that your finding rust resistance with your seed grown plants. I think the A.x grandiflora holds the most promise for the mid-Atlantic grower.
I have read that Regent, Success and Parkhill are hybrids of A. alnifolia and A. stolonifera. There was a report that these plants best resisted some fungal diseases, though I don't believe that rust was mentioned. I'll have to try out some Success plants I have heard of Timm, but I've not seen it available.
Good luck with your cuttings and grafts, they are worthy of reproducing. I wonder if they will grow faster on apple and hawthorn roots? I recall an article I read on native fruits mentioning the possibility of crossing serviceberries to apples. That would be something!
Juneberries for sale
Finding where to buy saskatoons or juneberries is a huge challenge. In Canada you will have better luck, since the crop size there is exponentially larger and it’s already a well-known and in-demand food. In the United States, the following will be your best bets for where to find them.
During late June and July, see if you can find a juneberry u-pick farm in your area. There are a couple directories online like upickfarmlocator.com, but a search for juneberries on there only yielded one result!
There are definitely more than that, but finding them will require homework.
Try doing a Google search for the name of your state with the word upick or you pick. Do this twice, using saskatoons and juneberries, since what they’re called differs by farm.
Your best luck for finding a u-pick farm will be in the lower peninsula of Michigan, upstate New York, Pennsylvania, and North Dakota.
In the Detroit area (South Lyon) there is Erwin Orchards, but there are a number in the northern part of the state.
Just west of Traverse City, Michigan is one of the state’s largest growers, Jacob’s Farm. We took a trip there to see this place for ourselves.
This was on June 29th, the first day the Saskatoon Berry Institute of North America announced them being ripe for picking in the area. Jacob’s Farm hadn’t advertised them as being ready yet, but another farm about one hour east along Torch Lake did. Too lazy to drive all the way there, we drove here instead.
If you’ve never done this before, here’s how a u-pick farm works:
- Borrow one of their buckets or pales
- Pick the berries yourself and fill the bucket
- At “checkout” you transfer the berries to their cardboard containers – pints or quarts
- You pay the marked price per pint or quart, typically by putting the cash into a drop box.
There were three long rows of juneberry trees, but Jacob’s preferred to call them by their Canadian name!
If we waited another week, it would have been a lot easier. At this time, only 15-20% of the fruit is ripe, so it’s more time intensive process to sort through and pick them.
That one dark purple berry you see in this clump is ripe. The pink berries still have a week to go.
Prepare to get your hands dirty in the process!
That’s not the worst part, though. It’s how long it takes to pick these little guys. Since the size of a saskatoon is only around 1/3″ in diameter, it takes a lot of them to fill up a quart.
After nearly 40 minutes of two people picking fervently, this was the reward to reap… just two quarts which is hardly impressive. At peak season in mid-July, you could probably do this at twice the speed.
Their price was $3/pint and $5/quart, which meant this bounty costs $10.
Where can I buy juneberries? Not at the grocery store. Or at least, we have never came across them at a Whole Foods, Sprouts, or even natural co-op market.
But we did see that at a farmers market during a prior trip to Northern Michigan.
Along the picturesque M-22 highway in the town of Glen Arbor, we stumbled upon these at a farmers market during the last week of July. They were actually overripe, as evidenced by their dark color and shriveling, but they were delicious nonetheless. The sellers of these were the same as the u-pick Jacob’s Farm.
It’s by no means likely, but it’s at least possible you might find these at farmers markets in Washington, Oregon, and northern California, in addition to the areas we already mentioned for you-pick farms.
Finding them at a farmers market is even more of a wild-goose chase, since not many vendors at those places promote themselves online.
There are over 8,600 markets registered in the USDA Farmers Market Directory. We have only been able to find proof of them being sold at a couple dozen!
That’s not to say you can’t find them at 25 or 50 other markets, but whatever the number, it’s likely only 1% at most. In short, do some Googling before driving all over the place.
Frozen saskatoon berries
Even if you live in an area where they’re available fresh, that season is only a max of one month per year. For the other eleven, buying them frozen will be the only way to enjoy them raw and unprocessed.
As shown above, during summer months we have seen the frozen juneberries for sale at farmers markets. Though never at a grocery store of any kind. In Canada you will find them, but not here.
Where to buy frozen saskatoon berries?
- Earth Delights in Okemos, MI (855.328.8732)
- Northwest Wild Foods in Burlington, WA (866.945.3232)
Both of these companies sell them and ship using dry ice. Last we checked, the former charges $28.50 for a 3 quart tub, while the latter has 3 lb bags for $40.
Earth Delights is the better bargain, since 3 quarts would weigh at least 4 lbs (probably 5). But you have to factor in the cost of express one or two-day shipping and the Styrofoam cooler which goes along with that… not cheap!
NW Wild Foods does provide free S&H if you spend $125. But really that means $160, since it takes 4 of those bags to cross the $125 threshold. Too expensive for a daily indulgence, but for research of other hard-to-find berries, we have ordered from them a couple times.
With both them and us on the west coast, as Superfoodly is based in Los Angeles, you would think their shipping to us would be more reliable versus a rural market. Unfortunately, that hasn’t been our experience.
The very first order placed with them was sent to a different state altogether. They did re-send, but the weeks delay really screwed up schedules. Obviously you want to make sure you’re present for when that package arrives.
A year later, an order was sent 3-day ground (versus the 2-day advertised) and in turn, what we received was slightly thawed. The berries were edible and safe to eat, but not sent using the method listed at time of order.
These were purchased for our review of sea buckthorn benefits.
We hear that freezing fresh saskatoons hold up well, in a manner similar to blueberries. Though we’ve never bought them, as they were never in-stock when we placed our orders.
What to do with frozen saskatoons? Almost everything you can do with the freshly picked. They will be too messy to eat by hand like popcorn, though thawing them in the fridge overnight will give you a good oatmeal or cereal topper at breakfast.
Oh and in case you’re curious, the frozen will likely have higher antioxidant content than fresh which have sat around for a couple days. That hypothesis is based on this test comparing fresh vs. frozen blueberries.
Berry jams and pie syrups
Given their extremely short growing season, it’s no surprise that the most popular uses for them in Canada are for canning, baking, and other culinary creations.
You can buy jams, compotes, sauces, salad dressing, and even juneberry wine.
Of course, ordering alcohol online with shipping across state lines isn’t always feasible, so homemade saskatoon wine recipes may be your only option depending on where you live.
The jams and jellies you can buy easily online. Aside from obvious uses like toast and bagels, incorporating them into scones, tarts, cookies, pies, and other baked goods is easy to do. Wild saskatoon jelly is something you can buy on Amazon no matter where you live. For making pies and dressing, try the syrup as a flavor booster.
Plant a tree
Last and least, we come to a solution for those who have a lot of patience.
Sure, you may find saskatoon berry plants for sale in Ontario at a nursery, but they’re not exactly something you’re going to find at a Home Depot in Dayton, Ohio.
Being extremely hardy (zone 2), the juneberry growing conditions work well for northern states, including Alaska.
Most of the Midwest, Pacific Northwest, and East Coast are good saskatoon berry growing zones. The hotter states to the south and west are not.
Aside from being a food source, they’re also quite beautiful with their big white blooms in the spring, as well as their red and gold foliage in the fall.
Most soil types can work, but they do best in fertile black dirt with medium moisture content. Regions where it’s too dry don’t work well and neither does sand or constantly soggy soil. In drier and hotter areas, a layer of mulch can help keep the moisture in.
Here are some nurseries which sell the live trees. Most only offer seedlings or those which are 2-3 feet in height.
- Saskatoon Michigan Farm & Nursery in Williamsburg, MI (231.360.0311)
- Honeyberry USA in Bagley, MN (218.331.8070)
- Nature Hills in Omaha, NE (888.864.7663)
- Forestfarm in Williams, OR (541.846.7269
- Edible Landscaping in Afton, VA (434.361.9134)
Live in the UK? Then try Frank P. Matthews Ltd (01584 812800). If you’re in Australia, try Daleys Fruit. They only communicate by email, not phone ([email protected]).
Since most places are only selling small seedlings and it’s going to take a while until they produce fruit, maybe you just want to start with seeds. Those are certainly a lot easier to find and ship than a seedling!
These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. This product is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease.