Juneberries gain popularity with Northeast farmers

Also known as shadbush, nutritionists call it a 'super fruit,' chefs say they're delicious


Make text smaller Make text larger



Photos



  • Juneberry fruit




  • A flowering Juneberry tree.



"It's the first fruit to flower and fruit in the springtime, even before strawberries. That makes them attractive for farmers markets. Plus, they taste great."
Chris Luley

By Mary Esch

— Like the taste of cherries, raisins and almonds? How about all in one? Try a juneberry.

After Chris Luley planted a few of the shrubs on his organic farm just to try them out, he soon found customers and local chefs clamoring for more of the purple fruit with a taste that's been described as a combination of those flavors.

“Everyone wondered why we didn't grow more," said Luley, an urban forester who runs his small farm as a sideline in the Finger Lakes region of western New York. “It was clear there was a lot of market potential out there."

Juneberry, a native North American fruit also known as shadbush, serviceberry or saskatoon, looks similar to a blueberry but actually is in the same family as apples, pears and almonds. Touted by nutritionists as a “super fruit" because of its high levels of antioxidants, vitamins and fiber, it has caught on in recent years as a commercial crop on the western Canadian prairie.

Now, researchers in upstate New York are making a concerted effort to expand juneberry production.

At a Cornell University farm overlooking Lake Champlain in northern New York, several wild and cultivated juneberry varieties are being grown in different soil types to see which are most suited to conditions in the Northeast.

“When people talk about juneberries in North America, we want to be the comprehensive resource," said Michael Burgess, a botanist who leads the project.

The juneberry that grows wild in Northeastern woodlands is good to eat, but it doesn't produce as heavily as the variety grown commercially in Canada and now in the northern United States. As the name suggests, the plant bears its fruit mostly in June.

“It's the first fruit to flower and fruit in the springtime, even before strawberries," Luley said. “That makes them attractive for farmers markets. Plus, they taste great."

Luley worked with the Cornell Cooperative in 2010 to get a grant that funded the planting of 100 juneberry bushes on each of four farms, using several varieties purchased from Canadian growers. The first small crop came in last summer, and the maturing shrubs will reach full production this year.

The project resulted in a report for growers detailing the costs of establishment, characteristics of different varieties, growing conditions, potential pests, suitability for Northeastern farms and consumer appeal. The results were overwhelmingly positive.

Juneberries can be eaten fresh or used much like blueberries in jams, jellies, pies and muffins. One chef even incorporated the fruit's unique flavor into a barbecue sauce.

Juneberries are less fussy about soil type than blueberries, which require acidic soils, said the Cooperative Extension's Jim Ochterski. They're also very tolerant to the cold and require less pesticide spraying than apples and grapes, he said.

Farms involved in the study have since planted many more juneberries, Ochterski said.

“Here's a great new fruit that's perfectly adapted to our region, that hasn't been grown on a large scale, and has interest from chefs," Luley said. “There's no reason we shouldn't be able to have a thriving production here in the Northeast."

Make text smaller Make text larger

Comments

Pool Rules



MUST READ NEWS

Organ donations from fatal drug overdoses double
By SUSAN BALDRIGE
Charles Grugan's drug addiction took a toll on his family.
They tried to help him, but on Oct. 12, 2011, Grugan 33, overdosed on heroin. He never...

Read more »
Image

Senior baseball player Zachary Klapak signs with Pittsburgh University
Zachary Klapak, a captain on the Delaware Valley baseball team, signed with Pittsburgh University-Division 1. He also played basketball and soccer in high school. He's the son of...
Read more »
Image

Elementary student council collects for hurricane victims
The Student Council of the Delaware Valley Elementary School is pictured with all the supplies they recently collected for the victims of Hurricane Harvey in Texas. Standing (from...
Read more »
Image

Commissioners: No county tax increase in 2018
By Anya Tikka
— There will be no county tax increase in 2018, said chair Matt Osterberg at the commissioners' Dec. 6...

Read more »
Image

VIDEOS



E-NEWSLETTER

Sign up to get our newsletter emailed to you every week!

  • Enter your email address in the box below.
  • Select the newsletters you would like to subscribe to.
  • Click the 'SUBSCRIBE' button.

* indicates required
Community Newspapers


MOST READ

Where in clues
Pike's Peek
  • Dec 14, 2017

MOST COMMENTED



Weather in Milford, PA