In my recently published book (Boulder Publications, 2020) I talk about harvesting a range of berries, including blueberries, wild blackberries, bakeapple, cranberry, snowberry, crowberry, dewberry, dogberry, northern wild raisin, partridgeberry and the book also includes wonderful recipes from the many chefs with whom I have worked.
For starters here, let’s pay tribute to the wonderful fruit, known in western Canada as saskatoon, but locally called chuckley pear.
What is it?
Chuckley pear is a short tree, usually between one and three metres in height, but it can reach eight metres in certain locations. Its oval leaves have toothed edges. Its white five-petalled flowers are among the first spring blooms. Chuckley pear fruit are round to oblong and change colour from pink-red to purple to near black, as they ripen.
Six species of chuckley pear are found in Newfoundland; all chuckley pear trees bear edible fruit. Trees grow along the edges of old trails, in forests and disturbed areas, and on riverbanks.
How to harvest?
Harvest chuckley pears when they are deep purple to black and slightly soft to the touch. Do not wait too long — ripe chuckley pears are a favourite of birds. You can also collect the aromatic spring buds from the tree: they taste and smell like almond marzipan.
How to use them
You can eat chuckley pears as fresh fruit and they can also be used to make fruit wine. Chuckley pears are great in pies, tarts, jam or chutney. Spring flower buds can be infused in alcohol to make a subtly flavoured liqueur.