Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Serviceberry Tree

Selby Horton in search of serviceberries to make a pie

If you were fortunate enough to tour Anne Frogge’s Garden, featured in the Memphis Area Master Gardener’s “2011 Through Our Garden Gates Tour,” you may have tasted the unforgettable sweet pungent fruit of the Serviceberry Tree (Amelanchier arborea). Almost a year after the tour, Ann received a call from a tour guest who wanted to know the name of the tree that bore “the delicious berry.” In late May or early June, this addition to your edible landscape will provide nutritious fruit, high in antioxidants, and great for making tasty pies and jellies.

A perfect fit in the urban yard, the Serviceberry will grow to 25 feet in full sun to partial shade.  In the wild it is often found on bluffs, rocky slopes, and stream beds so be sure to plant it in a well-drained area. It works well planted with evergreen shrubs for borders and screens and helps to naturalize water features. The serviceberry offers rewards in each season. For 5-7 days in early March, it will be covered with 2 to 4 inch drooping clusters of showy 5 petal white flowers. In late spring, the Serviceberry, also called Juneberry, bears a red, blueberry size, fruit which ripens to a deep purple. In summer, the oblong, finely serrated 1-3" leaves are medium to dark green.  In autumn, leaf color may range from yellow, to orange, to rich maroon. The smooth gray bark with vertical brownish red fissures provides winter interest.

Below is a recipe for SERVICEBERRY PIE. Michael Dirr says the serviceberry fruits are “better than highbush blueberries” and the serviceberry pie “ranks in the first order of desserts.”  Ann Frogge warns that in order to harvest the fruit, you must beat the birds to it. And this year it looks like the berries will ripen well before June. 

Serviceberry Pie 
2  pie crusts:  from your favorite recipe or 2 uncooked 9-inch prepared pie crusts
1/2 cup sugar---add more to taste
1/3 cup of corn starch or substitute flour
1/3 teaspoon nutmeg
4 cups fresh, deep purple serviceberries
1 tablespoon lemon juice
2 tablespoons butter, cut into small pieces
1. Place pie crusts into a lightly greased 9-inch pie pan; let them reach room temperature
2. Heat the oven to 375  degrees.
3. Combine the sugar, flour and nutmeg in a large bowl; stir in the berries.
4.  Spread the mixture into the pie crust -- sprinkle with lemon juice.  Place butter pieces on top.
5. Cut 1/2-inch strips from the second pie crust then weave the strips over the filling for a lattice crust.           Press the ends of the strips into the bottom crust edge then flute edges.     

6. Bake at 375 degrees for approximately 1 hour.

Jan Castillo

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