This Might be Canada’s Most Iconic Pie

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Prairie Saskatoon‑berry pie has a rich history, its own postage stamp and (of course) delicious flavour.

It ticks all the boxes for a great Canadian baked good: most obviously, the Prairie Saskatoon‑berry pie features a fruit that shares a name with a major Canadian city. But the Canadianness of the dish goes deeper than that – the berry also thrives in cold weather, tastes good without being overbearing or saccharine and, despite not being as well known, offers more health benefits than a blueberry. All that’s missing is a toque.

A Berry with the Heart of a Rose

They may look like blueberries, but Saskatoon berries are actually pomes (like apples and pears) and belong to the rose family. They have a tougher texture and an earthy, nutty flavour – the perfect filling for a not‑too‑sweet pie.

Saskatoon‑Berry Pie Gets the Stamp of Approval

Saskatoon‑berry pie joined the ranks of iconic Canadian desserts (including the Nanaimo bar and sugar pie) in 2019, when it was featured on a Canada Post stamp. Naturally, Saskatchewanians were thrilled: “Saskatoons are the Saskatchewan of berries,” one caller told CBC Radio. “They aren’t that famous or fancy to look at. Their flavour is muted and humble, but they are resilient and hardy.”

July 14, 2021
A bucket of Saskatoon berries seen from above, filled with purple berries.
   Photo: Magalie L'Abbé

A Brief History of Saskatoon Berries

The berries have long been a staple for the Prairies’ Indigenous peoples. (In fact, the city of Saskatoon got its name from the Cree word for the fruit, misâskwatômina.) Saskatoons were traditionally steamed, mashed and dried to last through the winters, and added to teas, bannock and pemmican.

Over the years, the fruit has been known by many names, including the serviceberry, the chuckley pear and the juneberry. In 2014, Time Magazine reported on a “super‑food war” over the name between Canada and the United States, with stateside interests pushing for broad adoption of the term juneberry. As of now, we feel confident that the Saskatoon berry name is here to stay – and the Michigan‑based Saskatoon Berry Institute of North America seems to agree.

Related: Momiji Tempura Are Our New Favourite Maple Treat

Five Saskatoon berries on a pale background.
   Photo: ppl58/Getty Images/iStockphoto
A bush with Saskatoon berries growing on it, in colours ranging from light green to bright red to purple.
   Photo: ppl58/Getty Images/iStockphoto
    Photo: Shawn Urban

The Health Benefits of Saskatoon Berries

Alongside great flavour and a rich cultural heritage, Saskatoon berries are also considered a “super fruit,” providing lots of goodness to the body. Compared to blueberries, Saskatoons have relatively higher amounts of fiber, protein, calcium, carbohydrates and lipids.

They’re also twice as high in iron as blueberries, while providing just as much vitamin C, riboflavin, vitamin B‑6, folate, vitamin A and vitamin E.

Related: Chef Jeff Kang on Fermentation and the Global Sourdough Obsession

Where to Find Saskatoon Berries

Some of the best pies can be found at the Berry Barn outside Saskatoon and Pearson’s Berry Farm near Red Deer, Alberta.

Despite their name, you’ll find Saskatoons growing from Western Ontario to the Yukon. They taste best plucked off the bush in July and August or picked fresh at a farm.