They don’t sound very delicious, but chokecherries are actually quite an amazing little foraged fruit that we discovered on our property!
When we first settled into our cabin, pretty much everything was new to us. We were new to Maine, new to the idea of farming, new to the idea of homesteading. We knew we wanted to do our best to make good use of anything we found, and so we spent a lot of time identifying and researching all kinds of trees and shrubs and wildflowers that were growing here, many of which were unfamiliar to us. The homesite on the property must have been kept clear for most of its history, and so it was full of the shrubby first-growth that comes up in the early years after a field is abandoned.
Scattered through the brush were a few mature trees including several different types of apples, some wild cherries, and maples and birches. There was a woody tangle that we eventually identified as meadowsweet. We were delighted to stumble across a little grove of elderberries. And then, there were these strange young brushy trees with clusters of white blossoms followed by clusters of bright red berries, which we came to discover were chokecherries.
To be honest, our chokecherries almost went the way of the weeds. We almost thought they weren’t worthwhile, and we almost cleared them out and piled them up and turned them into mulch. But we always want to make sure we learn about our resources and make the best use of them, so we did some research. I really thought they were going to be poisonous, but it turns out, they’re very useful!
This funny little berry has a long history. It was a staple of the Native American diet, one of the main ingredients in pemmican. It was also used for practically every kind of health complaint, from tummy aches to headaches to congestion to anxiety. You name it. Basically, I think it’s just like so many berries, a tiny powerhouse of micro-nutrients that give your system a boost. For more chokecherry details, check out this post from ScienceViews.com.
I have to say, I was entirely surprised: 1) that you could eat the chokecherries in the first place; 2) that they could be good for you when they tasted so terrible; and 3) that they could be so incredibly delicious after they were sun-dried!
From something that I first considered worthless, with a little more understanding, we discovered something that is both nutritious and delightful to the whole family. I think that’s one of my favorite things about foraged foods – they’re right there all along, waiting for you to take the time and the interest to discover them.
by Sydney Michalski