The Saskatoon (Amelanchier alnifolia), Pacific serviceberry, western serviceberry, alder-leaf shadbush, dwarf shadbush, chuckley pear, or western juneberry, is a shrub with edible berry-like fruit, native to North America from Alaska across most of western Canada and in the western and north-central United States. Historically, it was also called pigeon berry. It grows from sea level in the north of the range, up to 2,600 m (8,530 ft) elevation in California and 3,400 m (11,200 ft) in the Rocky Mountains, and is a common shrub in the forest understory.
With a sweet, nutty taste, the fruits have long been eaten by Canada’s aboriginal people, fresh or dried. They are well known as an ingredient in pemmican, a preparation of dried meat to which saskatoon berries are added as flavour and preservative. They are also often used in pies, jam, wines, cider, beers, and sugar-infused berries similar to dried cranberries used for cereals, trail mix, and snack foods.
In 2004, the British Food Standards Agency suspended saskatoon berries from retail sales pending safety testing; the ban eventually was lifted after pressure from the European Union.
Like other fruits, Saskatoon berries are loaded with vitamins and antioxidants. Aboriginal people used them to make tea, medicine, and concoctions to treat a variety of medical ailments. Not only do they boast one of the highest levels of antioxidants of any fruit, but they are also packed with fibre and five essential vitamins. Research has linked them with reducing heart disease, cancer, stress, and diabetes.