John Stoa creating a masterpiece!

A new Scottish superfood fruit crop

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Fruit Growing

Saskatoon fruit

Saskatoon fruit growing is a new age superfood health product. Although it has been around for ages, its value as a healthy fruit is only just being realised.Saskatoon superfood fruit in July 2007 The demand for the fruit far outstrips its production. After a trip to Canada where I witnessed this new wonder crop I decided to try and grow these superfood berries in Scotland to find out if our climate will allow them to grow, fruit and ripen and at economically viable levels.
The plants and seeds are available in UK, but they have only been grown as very attractive ornamental garden shrubs rather than for their fruit.

The Saskatoon is a large fruiting variety of the shrub, Amelanchier alnifolia. Another Amelanchier, A. canadensis commonly known as the snowy mespilus, grows extremely well all over the UK.

Saskatoons were a major food crop for the north american indians for centuries, but only recently is their full potential being realised, with the demand for new healthy superfoods.

The Beechgrove Garden with Jim McColl featured John and his Saskatoon experiments on their TV programme last summer 2009.

John's adventure into saskatoons

A holiday to Canada took John to a Saskatoon farm for pick your own fruit. He just loved the fruit and on return to Scotland discovered that they were grown at his local Scottish Crops Research Institute in Invergowrie, however funding is not available to study them and as yet there is no demand from growers for any research. Both plants and seeds were available in UK, but grown as an ornamental tree rather than as a fruiting bush.
John decided to try them as a fruit bush on his allotment in Dundee.

The story so far........CULTIVATION
................Click images to enlarge


Saskatoon Thiessen at  three months old Sow September 2004
Saskatoon flowers in May 2009
Germinate April 2005

Pot grown throughout 2005

Planted April 2006 into two rows on allotment

First fruits in July 2007

Very heavy crop in 2009 and 2010

Saskatoon Thiessen above three months old from
seed sown Sept. 2004 ...................................Saskatoon flowers in May

A row of Thiessen was planted next to a row of Smokey about 7 feet apart. The plants were spaced at 3 feet apart.

There was no pest or disease problem apart from birds which love them so netting is essential on a garden scale. One bush showed some canker in 2007, but probably induced by the very wet summer weather.

The first berries tasted in July 2007 did not have the flavour of those grown in Canada, but after a six week period of constant rain and very little sunshine, it is the wrong season to judge them.

It was also a difficult year to achieve good ripening which turns the fruit black, juicy and sweet.

In Canadian tests they proved to be as good as if not better than Blueberries as a superfood health product.
Saskatoons in Feb 2009Ywo rows of Saskatoons

They look and taste very similar to blueberries, but are far easier to grow and harvest. They grow on all soils.
The fruit can be eaten fresh, or cooked as jam, jelly, sauce, or as fillings in pies, yogurts, or used for wines and liqueurs.

Superfood nutritional value
Saskatoons have higher levels of potassium, calcium, magnesium, and iron than blueberries and the dark skins are a rich source of anthocyanins, an antioxidant which may help prevent heart disease, strokes, cancer, cataracts and other chronic illnesses associated with ageing.

Scottish Saskatoons in 2008
The fruit crop in 2008 was picked in one harvest on 27th July when 9lbs of large black sweet juicy berries were gathered. However the birds had already eaten quite a few while still just turning red and before I got a net over them.The flavour was far better than 2007 (a very wet year) and the fruit sweetness was enhanced with a few days storage.
Saskatoon Smoky bush in fruit mid July 2007

Two fruiting rows started the year with a fantastic flower display promising a bumper crop.

Picking started in late July and continued for two weeks with an average of nearly 5 lbs of fruit per bush. Quality was excellent and netting was installed to protect from birds.
The berries make excellent jam but are quite sweet so require some redcurrant juice to balance the flavour help them set firm. Another recipe included a mixture of Rhubarb and saskatoons making a beautiful jam.
They will also be mixed with some blackcurrants for jam as a trial.We also eat them fresh, with museli in mornings and at lunchtime with natural yoghurt or cream and honey. They are also used for cakes and as a pie filling.
At the end of the year my bushes are about 4 to 5 foot tall but still require no pruning. They are fruiting on all wood from top to ground so pruning will only be required if they grow too tall to pick comfortably.
Each winter I give a light dressing of compost then in spring they get a dusting of fertiliser, and watering is only given if the weather is very dry.

Scottish Saskatoons 2010
The weather this year has been cool to mild with an awful lot of rain, although June was brilliant. This affected the crop which ripenned very slowly from early July till August.
Anna is now experimenting with recipes for jams, juices, compote, smoothies, crumbles and oaties. Our healthy lifestyle is enhanced with the addition of Aronia berries, (the chokeberry) said to be one of the healthiest food on the planet with ten times more anti oxidants than blueberries. Seeds of the variety Viking have been sown so hopefully we shall have some seedlings in spring.

Saskatoon Saskatoon wine at Christmas 2011season 2011Saskatoon wine, jam and cake
A cool wet summer followed a very severe winter, but saskatoons seem to like this extreme climate and we got one of our heaviest crops to date. There was too much for jams, pies, compote and juice so we started to brew batches of saskatoon wine.
Tastings have been excellent with the wine quite drinkable after just a few weeks even at strengths of over 14% alcohol.
Plant growth this year has been poor due to lack of sunshine and warmth, but plants are very sturdy.

Saskatoon season 2012 and 2013

The 2012 year was just about the wettest year on record as well as a cool sunless summer. This did not help the saskatoon berries. However I still managed to pick about 24lbs of fruit, then wet weather prevailed and a lot of berries failed to ripen. Fruit quality in mid picking was good, so plenty for jam, compote, cakes and wine. Eating fresh from the bush lasted a month as the crop ripened very slowly.
I brewed three demijohns of wine from this years surplus crop. This will be sampled at Christmas 2013.
My first really serious prune was done first week in September to reduce height, remove low branches where berries get splashed with soil, keep the middle of the bush open and remove suckers in between the rows.
The 2013 season was very late but a warm dry summer made up for it. Picking started at the end of July and continued till mid August.
2014 was a good year but tall bushes had to get a good pruning to reduce height after the crop was picked.
2015 was a wet cool year so crops were not up to usual standard, but 2016 was dry with just enough moisture to maintain good health, so the bushes produced the heaviest crop ever.

In winter I dug out half the bushes as we were getting far more berries than we could use.

2017 was a great year with a massive crop of berries. Had to give away a lot of fruit as we just could not use all the crop. Bushes now getting too tall for our six foot tall nets, so they will get a severe pruning in winter to reduce height. This will lose some crop but no great loss as two people can only use so much berries.

2018 Bushes covered in flowers in spring so crop potential high, but pruning has given a lot of young shoots not likely to fruit till next year. Weather in summer turned tropical with three months of heatwaves and no rain. Saskatoon crop was brilliant. Picked 30 pounds of fruit to eat fresh in season then compote, jam and enough for three demijohns of wine.

More pruning planned for winter to reduce height of plants by cutting some older shoots right down to ground if I can get in as they form quite a dense thicket.

2019 After a mild winter bushes are full of flower so expect another bumper crop this year. Hope to see picking season coincide with the City Road Allotments Open Day on Sunday 28th July 2019, so that visitors can see and taste the saskatoon fruit straight from the bushes.There will also be plenty of one and two year old plants for sale.

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