A berry by many names — Service, June, Saskatoon — is delicious all the same
The serviceberry is as subtle as a blueberry, and just as lovely in this pancake recipe
In the garden
You may have heard serviceberries referred to as June berries or Saskatoon berries. There are a few different varieties of the serviceberry shrub: Amelanchier alnifolia or alder-leafed serviceberry, Saskatoon berry; A. Canadensis or shadblow, shadbush; A. laevis or allegheny serviceberry; A. stolonifera — running serviceberry.
Some are to be found only at the garden centre and some grow wild and abundantly in woodlots and at the side of country roads. In urban centres they are often planted in parks; if one grows beside a sidewalk, the purple-red splatters staining the concrete are a dead giveaway.
The serviceberry is pretty tolerant, but it does best with lots of sun. Treat it like a shrub and allow it to grow free-form, or prune it into a classic tree shape. Instead of the usual boxwood, forsythia or cedar, a dense planting of serviceberries makes a beautiful, eco-friendly fence, offering some privacy. For a serviceberry hedge, plant as many as you need for the length of the fence, about two to three feet apart in full sun to part shade.
Serviceberries are happiest in zones three to nine, in acidic, fertile, moist, well-draining soil, although the alder-leafed serviceberry tolerates alkaline soil. Serviceberry shrubs can reach a height of seven metres and can spread to ten metres.
In the kitchen
Serviceberries aren’t as strongly flavoured as a raspberry; they’re more subtle, somewhere between a cherry and a blueberry. The riper they are, the softer, darker, and more flavourful. Inside are a few tiny seeds, that when crunched, release a delightful marzipan flavour. Serviceberries or Saskatoons are perfect for jams, compotes, pancakes, fruit salads — really anywhere that suits blueberries or cherries.
Serviceberry Lemon Olive Oil Pancakes
This easy recipe calls for lemon-infused olive oil; do choose one wisely. Some lemon-flavoured oils taste like citronella (chemical, unnatural), but there are a few brands out there that stand apart for their true, clean, and pure lemony taste. Nudo is a good one, but use your favourite, naturally-flavoured brand.
- 1 ⅓ cups flour
- ¼ cup sugar
- 3 tbsp maple sugar
- 2 tsp baking powder
- ½ tsp sea salt
- 1 cup whole milk, buttermilk, or plain kefir
- 3 tbsp lemon-infused olive oil, plus more for frying
- 1 egg
- 1 cup fresh or frozen serviceberries
Preheat the oven to 200F degrees and keep a baking sheet or oven-proof dish at the ready for keeping the pancakes warm.
In a bowl, combine flour, sugars, baking powder, and salt. In a small bowl, beat the egg well, then add milk and oil and combine thoroughly. Make a well in the dry ingredients and slowly add in the egg-milk mixture. Stir quickly until the ingredients are just mixed and the batter is still lumpy in appearance. Fold in the serviceberries.
Drop by the batter by ¼ cupfuls onto a medium-hot pancake griddle or non-stick pan coated in some of the olive oil. Cook the pancakes until they are filled with bubbles and the under-side is golden brown. Then flip and brown the other side, adding more oil as needed. Keep finished pancakes warm in the preheated oven while continuing to cook the rest.
Serve with butter and maple syrup, or a sprinkling of sugar and a squeeze of fresh lemon juice.
Yield: Makes 4 servings
Signe Langford is a restaurant chef-turned-writer from Hudson, Que., now living in Port Hope, Ont. She tells award-winning stories and creates delicious recipes for such publications as: Harrowsmith (where she’s the food editor), LCBO’s Food & Drink, Today’s Parent and Watershed. In 2015, she published her award-winning book, Happy Hens & Fresh Eggs: Keeping Chickens in the Kitchen Garden with 100 Recipes. Follow her @sigster64.