It's june berry month - the moon of shadberry fruit is newly new. Summer is begun, the days are at their longest, and the time is NOW for the beginnings of the fruit season!
Being smaller, berries ripen before big fruits like apples. Generally, the more northern varieties and species ripen sooner when planted south of their native range, believing the midsummer temperatures to be the early fall they're used to. One such example is 'honeyberry', Lonicera caerulea, a wild berry species from northern Eurasia. It has been widely cultivated there for many years and is beginning to make its way into forest gardens in our areas here. It's a honeysuckle family shrub growing to 6', and being from Siberia, is not tolerant of hot, dry places. It grows well in part sun and rich soil and ripens sour and sweet, long-blueberry-like fruit in late May and early June.
Ripening next are strawberries, garden and wild varieties alike, as well as 'false strawberry', which looks and tastes similar. Look for their three, toothed leaves, in meadows, fields and gardens. Her leaves, like her cousin raspberry, are high in vitamins and have many medicinal uses. Green, unripe strawberries make good and interesting pickles.
Next to ripen in the seasonal cycle, come mid june, are the long awaited, Gusher(TM)-like, purple and amazing June berries. Also known as shadbush, serviceberry and saskatoons, these native shrubby trees, Amalanchier sp., grew commonly in hedges, meadows and edges from the East coast through the Great Plains. Their blooming flowers in spring coincide with the runs of the mighty shad fish, hence their name. Gather the cherry/blueberry flavored shadberry when her fruits are dark red to purple, stuff your face then and there, delight in pies, juices, tarts, etc, or dry them for later as pemmican or dried fruit.
Now, in late June arrive the mulberries! They ripen over a wider window, having some variation between their individual trees. Many of the trees that grace our bike paths, farms, edges and sidewalks are the children or grandchildren of vast mulberry orchards planted in the last 2 centuries in the mill towns of the north east to grow their leaves (berries a bonus) to feed to silk worm caterpillars - their only food. Look for their ripe, dark purple / black fruit dropping down (put a tarp out, don't bother about the sandy ones) from branches with toothed, lobed, fig-like leaves. Don't eat them unripe, wait until they are sublime and dark, even if they taste semi-sweet when plump and white. Mulberries are common enough to recognize growing out of sidewalk cracks, victims of yearly weed whacking. Can you pull them out in spring or fall, and transplant them to a loving forever home where they can spread tall and wide?
Next month -- stay tuned for currants, bramble berries, gooseberries and some color in the wild cherries and early blueberries
Carly lives and eats from a hilltop in Cummington, Massachsuetts and part time in Schenectady, NY.