Oh, You Sugarplum. You Chuckley Pear. You Serviceberry.

Near an old house, a tall tree bloomed white each spring, adding a grace note to the already gorgeous valley where I grew up. "The serviceberry is blooming," Mother would say. Or Dad would say, "There's the serviceberry, or sarvisberry, as some people call it." They didn't add, though, "And in June there will be berries."

From the Wikipedia entry on serviceberries:

“Amelanchier (/æməˈlænʃɪər/ am-ə-lan-sheer),[2] also known as shadbush, shadwood or shadblow, serviceberry or sarvisberry, or just sarvis, wild pear, juneberry, saskatoon, sugarplum or wild-plum, and chuckley pear is a genus of about 20 species of deciduous-leaved shrubs and small trees in the Rose family (Rosaceae).”

So it's a rose, too! The woods in the Wayne County hills grew plenty of these native trees. I might have guessed—duh—that the serviceberry produced, yes, edible berries, but it took urban farmers Sherry and Geoff Maddock at The 4th Street Farm to introduce me to these June fruits. And then when she appeared on Hot Water Cornbread: Kentucky Food Radio (podcast and photo here) urban geographer and savvy food forager Dr. Christine Smith topped her list of good foods from the previous week with "found" serviceberries.  Christine spoke about these fruits with such happiness I went straight to the corner of Elm and E. 4th and ate a few handfuls. 

They do look a bit like blueberries, though these particular berries do not taste like blueberries. Tastes in serviceberries can vary widely, according to the literature, from insipid to spectacular.

Serviceberry plant size can range from small bushes, often used in urban landscaping, to tall trees like the wonderful Wayne County specimen. Kentucky's championserviceberry tree is more than 70 feet tall, and lives right next to Wayne County in beautiful McCreary County.

To learn more, here's an excellent serviceberry introduction, courtesy of Nan K. Chase in the Mother Earth News: The Amazing Serviceberry.

Rona RobertsComment