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Forage: How to harvest wild chokecherries and use them to put a summery spin on everyone's fave — butter tarts

Chef Shawn Adler throws a wrench in the Great Butter Tart Debate by putting these pint-sized cherries in the mix.

Chef Shawn Adler throws a wrench in the Great Butter Tart Debate by putting these tiny cherries in the mix

Chef Shawn Adler throws a wrench in the Great Butter Tart Debate by putting these pint-sized cherries in the mix. 4:02

Anishinaabe chef Shawn Adler has been harvesting wild edibles since his mother first showed him how as a child. In each episode of Forage, he teaches us how to source in-season ingredients from our own backyards and sustainably forage them, before turning them into a delicious dish we can make and devour in our own kitchens.

“Team Raisins” and “Team Nuts” tend to be presented as the two sides of the Great Canadian Butter Tart Debate, but what if the best butter tart filling-enhancer has been hiding amidst the summer foliage all this time? In this episode of Forage, chef Shawn Adler shows us how to properly identify and sustainably harvest chokecherries — a type of tiny wild cherry with enough tang to make your mouth pucker. That’s exactly why they pair so perfectly with a sweet, gooey pastry, like butter tarts. Check out the video above to get Shawn’s full primer on foraging this homegrown fruit, then scroll down to grab the recipe.

Chokecherry Butter Tarts

By Shawn Adler

Note: Do not eat chokecherry pits. They are a choking hazard and contain small amounts of poisonous cyanide, so they must be removed and discarded before consuming.


  • Homemade or store-bought pastry dough
  • 2 cups brown sugar
  • 1 cup heavy cream
  • 4 eggs
  • ¾ cup maple syrup
  • 3 tbsp butter, melted and cooled slightly
  • 2 cups chokecherries
  • Whipped cream, for topping (optional)


Preheat oven to 375˚F. 

Roll out pastry dough to roughly 1 cm in thickness. Gently place the pastry into each tart shell and form it tightly to the shape of the shell using a tool or your fingers covered in a little parchment paper (this will prevent the warmth of your hands from melting the butter in the dough). Trim off the excess dough and crimp the edges.

Prick the bottom of the pie dough with a fork 6 or 7 times, add pie weights and blind bake your shells for 8-10 minutes (this ensures a crispy bottom). Remove from oven and remove pie weights. 

To prepare the filling, combine brown sugar, cream, eggs, maple syrup and butter in a medium bowl. Whisk until fully combined.

Rinse and de-seed the chokecherries and discard the pits. 

Ladle the filling into each tart shell roughly two thirds of the way up. Add a heaping tablespoon of chokecherries and bake for 10-12 minutes. 

Serve with whipped cream. 

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