Saskatoon berries are one fruit we have never tried before. This being the season for fresh ‘Saskatoons’, it was time to try them for the first time. At first blush, this particular berry seems to be difficult to find. There aren’t any to be found in grocery stores, and we’ve only heard rumour of them being sold at the farmer’s market. Then we discovered Saskatoon Farms. Located sust south of Calgary, east of Okotoks Saskatoon Farms has u-pick berries, farmers market and restaurant.
From the south end of Calgary it was a short 20 minute drive to the front gates of the farm. Parking was another story. Turns out this is a very popular place and parking is at a premium. Cars lined the roadway from the gate to the parking lots that over flowed with cars. Waling through the entrance is like walking into a small town.
The first building we entered was the farmers market. The produce here was like nothing we had seen in Calgary thus far. Fresh, large, brilliantly coloured and aromatic. There was a bit of everything – kale, garlic, root vegetables, strawberries and of course Saskatoon berries. This building was also the launching point for those interested in picking their own Saskatoons. At this point we were too hungry for berry picking.
We crossed the road/walkway into the Bakery and Restaurant. We were shocked to see a lineup almost 20 people deep for lunch at 1:15pm. Seeing as this was the only option for lunch, we waited. We were eventually seated in what looked
like a saloon littered with country tables. It wasn’t until we saw the menus that we realized this is a Mexican restaurant. The food was good, fresh and the service was speedy. It only seemed fitting to finish lunch off with a piece of Saskatoon berry pie. So, what did we think? They look a lot like blueberries, but are not as soft. The berries were definitely ‘meatier’ in the pie. As for taste, they are not as sweet as most berries and are similar to blueberries, but a bit nuttier. We left the restaurant just after 2pm and amazingly the waiting line was just as long as an hour previous. This is a very popular place. The buildings surrounding the restaurant are full of typical household gifts and decor and there were some very interesting and unique items … but that’s not what we were there for!
On our way to the orchard we walked through the greenhouses/hursery. There is a tremendous variety of plants and trees for sale within the nursery. One of the highlights for us was the 6 foot tall fig trees laden with figs. Its hard to image the amount of work needed to maintain these medeterainian plants in a province with such cold winters. The greenhouses were also home to turkeys, chickens and a very entertaining pot belly pig. There was even a couple guineafowl that would have caught the attention of any fly tier. Next stop was the orchard. We paid our $2/person ‘grazing fee’ and headed to pick Saskatoon berries right off the bush. Compared to all the berry picking adventures forced on us by our mothers, this was relatively easy. The bushes were about 6 feet tall and the branches drooped under the weight of the bunches of berries. The ripest berries could be found at the very top of the bushes, out of the reach of most pickers. We quickly picked our bucket full and headed out to pay the $15.00fee. Wih our gathering complete, its time to find something to make with the famous berries. Mom and mum would be proud!