Chokecherry plants are hardy, deciduous shrubs or trees that can grow up to 20 feet tall. The leaves are oval, with finely toothed margins, and the plant produces fragrant racemes of white flowers that attract various pollinators. The resulting berries are deep red to black when ripe, and while they are quite astringent when eaten raw, they have a rich flavour profile that shines when processed. Beyond its culinary uses, the chokecherry serves as a vital food source for various wildlife, from birds to mammals, ensuring its ecological significance.
For millennia, Indigenous peoples of Alberta and other parts of North America have held the chokecherry in high esteem. It has been used in traditional medicine for its therapeutic properties, with various parts of the plant addressing different ailments. Beyond medicine, the chokecherry has been a staple food source. The berries are often mixed with other ingredients, like meats or fats, to produce pemmican – a nutritious and long-lasting food source that was essential for nomadic lifestyles and long journeys.
Despite their raw astringency, chokecherries transform into delightful culinary creations with a bit of processing. They are commonly made into jellies, jams, and syrups, where their tartness can be balanced with sweeteners. Chokecherry syrup or sauce can be a delectable accompaniment to pancakes, waffles, or even meats like game or poultry. Chokecherries are also used in winemaking, producing a unique wine with a characteristically North American touch.
When preparing chokecherries, it's important to note that the seeds, like other members of the Prunus genus, contain cyanogenic compounds and should be discarded. As a testament to its adaptability and versatility, chokecherry finds its way into modern dishes and traditional preparations, continuing to be a cherished part of Alberta's food heritage.
Green Valley Acres
Green Valley Acres, Alberta 41, Irvine, AB, Canada
Hidden Valley Garden
Hidden Valley Garden, 1271 Township Road 392, Red Deer County, AB, Canada
D & A Gardens
DNA Gardens, Range Rd 230, Elnora, AB, Canada
The Berry Farm (at Christie's Corner)
52002 Range Road 232, Sherwood Park, AB T8B 1B3, Canada