Canadian Berries: Local, Flavourful and Good for You

What do Saskatoon berries, seabuckthorn berries, and haskap berries all have in common? They are all produced by Canadian farmers! Raspberries, strawberries and blueberries get most of the attention in the summer. However, these other three berries deserve a second look.

The Saskatoon berry has been recognized for hundreds of years by Native Americans for its medicinal properties1. Modern science has supported this practice by revealing the high antioxidant content of the berries. They are also a great source of manganese, magnesium, iron, calcium, potassium, copper and carotene1. Despite its high nutritional benefits, the first Saskatoon berry orchard was planted less than 20 years ago and Saskatoon berries are only beginning to draw consumers’ interest2.  Before that time, they were simply an abundant, wild berry. The berries have a deep purplish-blue hue and can be found throughout Canada’s prairies. Even its name, “Saskatoon,” evokes Canadian pride. They have a sweet, distinctive taste. It is said to have a flavour that is similar to a mix of blackberry, blueberry, and cherry with a hint of almond3. It is a mixture that will surprise you if you give them a try.

In Canada, sea-buckthorn berries are only beginning to be appreciated for their nutritional content. Previous to this, they were commonly found in farmers fields as wind-breakers and nitrogen fixers for the soil4. The berries are a sunny orange colour with a taste that is not easy to describe. They are full-flavoured and tart with notes of citrus, peach, and strawberry. However, these descriptors are woefully insufficient to properly describe the fruit. To put it simply, they taste like sea-buckthorn berries; there is no true comparison. The berries are tiny, but they pack a nutritional punch. At up to 2500 milligrams of vitamin C per gram, they have a vitamin C content 15 times greater than that of oranges5. Due to its built-in benefits, preparations of sea-buckthorn oil have been recommended for external use in treating burns, eczema, and other skin sores6. For a berry, they contain an unusually high amount of oil which is a carrier for the fat soluble vitamins found in the berry5. Sea-buckthorn berries have also been used for the treatment of intestinal and stomach ulcers5. So, whether eaten or applied externally, you cannot go wrong with these sunny fruits.

Haskap berries are not as brightly coloured as sea-buckthorn berries but their deep purple hue is equally as striking. Hasakp berries are a perfect Canadian crop because they are well suited for winter weather.  Found natively in the boreal forest, the berries grow on hardy bushes that can withstand temperatures as low as -45 degrees Celsius and open flowers can survive temperatures down to -7 degrees Celsius7.  They are tart, oblong fruits that taste like a combination of red raspberry, blueberry, and Saskatoon berry.  The benefits of this fruit are still being investigated but their nutritional content seems promising so far. They have been proven to contain high concentrations of phenols, antioxidants, and vitamin C. In fact, the phenol content of haskap berries is five times that of blueberries and the vitamin C content surpasses that of oranges8,9.  Haskap jam, cheesecake, and vodka are popping up throughout the country as Canadians are discovering and appreciating this unique this berry.

The trend in recent years to buy local produce has also boosted the popularity of these berries and enhanced their market presence making them more readily available to the consumer. So, whether you are looking for a healthy snack or just want to try something new, Saskatoon, sea-buckthorn, and haskap berries are all great options. Want to add the punch of these gastronomic treats to your product without hassle inherent in using the raw material? Contact the Novotaste team for a sample of our Saskatoon, sea-buckthorn, and haskap berry flavours!