I have spent many hours since my childhood picking saskatoons in the bush, on the farm, at the lake, or in the river valley. The flavour is unique (even though it kind of tastes like… sticks?) but the nostalgia and cultural significance of saskatoons is really what draws me to them. I don’t know if there is another fruit that is more quintessentially “prairie”.
Saskatoon season is upon us and we are all excited to get out there and start picking! However, as is the case with many prairie fruits, saskatoons taste way better when they are left to fully ripen. Part of combating food waste is learning about when to harvest fruit so we don’t end up picking what can’t be used!
Saskatoons tend to be ripe in July and August, however, the exact timing can fluctuate quite a bit. Last year, the saskatoons ripened in the Edmonton river valley in early July and before we knew it, most were gone or dried up. This year, we are reaching the end of July and with all the rainy days, the saskatoons are just starting to ripen.
In some varieties of saskatoons, the berries ripen all at the same time and in other varieties a clump of berries can ripen at all different times. Some varieties will ripen sooner in the season and some later. The weather, location, and surrounding elements can also all have a large effect on when they are ready to be picked.
For these reasons, the best way to tell if they are ripe is visually. We’ve put together a little infographic to show the differences between a beautifully ripe saskatoon and one that needs some more time on the bush.
We have seen people picking and eating saskatoons at every stage on this infographic. But trust us… give them a bit of time, harvest the ripe ones, and leave the rest for other pickers or the birds – the wait will be worth it for the improvement in taste and quality!