By El Lower, Michigan Sea Grant GLANSIS research associate
Summer has finally arrived in Michigan, bringing with it a bounty of fresh fruit. While many people are celebrating the return of peaches, strawberries, and watermelons to their local produce stand, there’s also wonderful fruit to be foraged this time of year – much of it growing in parks and neighborhoods as landscaping!
Saskatoon berries, also known as serviceberries, are produced by Amelanchier canadensis, a small native tree known for its glossy green foliage, compact growth habit, and delicate white flowers in spring – a popular ornamental that also produces delicious fruit. This plant has historically been and continues to be important to indigenous people throughout North America – the word “saskatoon” is derived from the Cree name for this plant. The juicy purple fruits are also known as Juneberries, based on the time of year that they ripen, and taste similar to blueberries with a hint of apple and sweet almond. They can be eaten fresh or in baked goods, and they also freeze well – just be sure to get to them before local birds do!
Another plant bearing fruit this time of year is mulberry, two species of which are commonly found in Michigan: the native red mulberry (Morus rubra) and the introduced white mulberry (Morus alba). White mulberries are much more common, having been introduced to the US as food for silk moths, and often grow on the edges of woodlands because their seeds are dispersed by birds. Despite their name, the berries white mulberries produce can range in color from cream to violet, and are delightfully sweet when ripe.
A pie felt like the perfect way to celebrate this summer abundance. Check your backyard, and you might be pleasantly surprised to find that baking ingredients are all around you!
2 store-bought pie crusts (or make your own with your favorite recipe)
4 cups saskatoon berries
1 cup mulberries
¾ cup white sugar
1 ½ tablespoons cornstarch
3 teaspoons lemon juice
Zest of ½ lemon
1 tablespoon butter, cut into small pieces
Pinch of salt
1 egg, whisked (optional)
- Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.
- Prepare your pie dough, or if using frozen dough like we did, ensure that it is thawed but not too warm before you begin baking.
- Ensure your berries are washed and picked over carefully for stems or stowaway insects, then combine them in a large bowl and sprinkle the sugar, cornstarch, salt, lemon zest, and lemon juice over them.
- Place your bottom pie crust into a pie plate, then fill the plate with the berry mixture. Scatter the cut-up pieces of butter on top, then add the top crust and seal. We made a lattice topping for our pie, but decorate it any way you desire!
- Seal the pie, then brush the top crust with the optional egg mixture to give it a little extra shine.
- Bake the pie for an hour on the lowest rack of your oven, until the filling is bubbling, the crust is golden, and the smell of berries and almonds is filling your kitchen. If the crust is getting too brown, you can use a piece of tinfoil to protect the top crust.
- Remove from the oven and cool on a baking rack – this is the hard part.
- Cut, serve, and enjoy!