Anyone going outside in January and February in North Dakota knows the value of a row of dense shrubs. Windbreaks and shelterbelts reduce the amount of wind, hold snow for moisture in the land, provide protection for livestock and wild animals, and offer a food source for birds; and if the right shrubs are planted, they can be a great value-added food source for humans, too.
In addition to the jams, jellies, desserts and juices produced in home kitchens, there are several businesses that offer products made from wild-harvested fruits. Several Pride of Dakota businesses make jams, jellies, and syrups as part of their product lines. Look for “you-pick” businesses that allow you to pick the amount of fruits you want. When wild plums, Juneberries, buffalo berries and chokecherries are in season, they can often be found at farmers markets.
Here are two of the most plentiful berries that can be found in backyards and on the prairies along with a recipe you will want to try.
Silver buffaloberries, also called bull berries, are loved by deer and are a great food source for songbirds. The berries are small, but literally hundreds of them grow in tight clusters. Wild buffaloberries grown in North and South Dakota have been found to be high in lycopene, an antioxident that is believed to be able to lower the risk of several types of cancers. .
These berries grow well in dry soil, prefer full sun, and grow from 6 to 15 feet. They are thick and grow into a rounded canopy that will help preserve the soil. Make this wonderful jelly when the berries have been picked.
Silver Buffaloberry Jelly
Wash and stem the berries. Use 3 cups of water for 1 pound of fruit. Boil 8-10 minutes; mash fruit. Strain the fruit through a damp jelly bag. Pectin is naturally high so there is no need to add any. Use 3/4 cup of sugar for 1 cup of juice. Cook and process following general jelly directions. The jelly becomes firmer and the color fades on storage. (Recipe source: NDSU Extension Service.)
Chokecherries are the most commonly planted type of fruit bearing shrub because they live long and require less special care. Chokecherries are very high in vitamin C, vitamin A, potassium, and fiber. Chokecherries grown for shelter, windbreaks, and soil conservation are common because the roots sucker and the shrubs can become quite thick.
Chokecherries tolerate most soils, are fairly tolerant to drought, and grow as wide as it grows tall.
Once chokecherries have been picked, they should be covered with water to firm up the berries and draw out any insects.
Wash and remove stems and leaves; crush berries. Add enough water to cover the berries. Bring to a boil until the berries are soft. Strain the fruit through a damp jelly bag.
Stir a 1-3/4 oz package of pectin into the juice. Bring mixture to a rolling boil. Quickly add sugar to the juice. Bring to a full, rolling boil again and boil one minute, stirring constantly. Process according to general jelly directions. (Recipe source: NDSU Extension Service.)