Friday, February 24, 2012

Mmmmmm Saskatoons

My dad, on the eve of his marriage to my mom, went to pick two 5 gallon pails of Saskatoons, to hide from the "boys" who intended to get him drunk before his nuptials. At that time, Saskatoons grew plentiful around the river banks and his buddies never did find him in the thick of the bush. Today, for whatever reason, there are few wild Saskatoon bushes left around the river. The river isn't as full as it was during my father's time and so with all of our droughts, I'm wondering if they just died of thirst. We use to go Saskatooning as kids, dressing to protect ourselves from horse flies mainly, there weren't any ticks back then. We ate just as many as we put into our pails. There is no other taste in the world like a wild Saskatoon berry. Now picking around the riverbeds is a bit more dangerous as we now have cougars living in our area and they follow the river.  My mom has a huge Saskatoon bush in her back yard and we enjoy it very much. On a good year, it can produce upwards of 20 gallons. But it doesn't taste like a wild Saskatoon, close but not quite. Saskatoons have been native to our prairie land forever. They are self fertile and can withstand temperatures of -50C to -60C. They have a 30 to 50 year lifespan and seem to do better when grown in groups. Birds love Saskatoons and can strip  a tree in a very short amount of time. My uncle Laurent built my mom a cage around her tree to keep the birds out. When the fruit are ripe, one can often see birds sitting on top of the cage and squawking that they can't reach the fruit...but the cage saves the fruit for us so we can gorge ourselves on the berries and freeze tons of them for making pies in the winter. My mom has a green thumb too and the secret to her success with this particular Saskatoon tree is to put her eaves-trough directly under the tree. My mom's old Saskatoon tree is just under twelve feet tall and some of the branches surpass the cage, rarely, do you see any berries on those branches.  The main reason for crop loss from an established tree is frost. Sometimes, there are virtually no Saskatoons because the flowers froze or we had gale force Saskatchewan winds at the time of pollination. On our last farm, the deer could wipe out my Saskatoon trees in a matter of days because they love to eat them. Now, we have Moose in the area and they too can make short work of Saskatoon bushes. My Saskatoon bushes are mulched with straw to keep the weeds down and moisture in. After, two years of growth they are about 3 feet high. Since planting the new seedlings, I have had to replace several, as I've lost some over the winter. They are a popular bush/tree and can be found for sale at almost all the garden centres.

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