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Monday, Mar. 10, 2014
Sarvis berryPosted Thursday, March 15, 2012, at 10:23 AM
Photos by Steven Foster For photo prints, go to www.stevenfoster.com/prints.html
Ever wonder what those trees dotting the hills this time of year with billowy white flowers are? It's serviceberry or "sarvis berry" as we say in the Ozarks.
This small tree which occurs throughout Arkansas and eastern North America is also called servis berry, shad, and Juneberry. A member of the rose family, botanists call it Amelanchier arborea.
It blooms as early as the first of March and is really the first showy flowering tree we see in an Ozark spring. There are twenty or so species of Amelanchier in North America, and a single species which occurs in Europe, with two in China.
Serviceberry is another one of those American fruits deserving greater attention. Perhaps one reason it is little known to the human palate is that the fruits are so relished by birds and other woodland creatures, once ripe they hasten into the wildlife food chain with little opportunity for humans to partake.
The fruits have the appearance and color of a small rounded rose-hip, each fruit topped with a five-pointed star, the remnants of the petals. With a texture similar to, but slightly mealier than blueberries, one likens them to blueberries by association.
Perhaps the flavor can best be described as a cross of a delicate hint of blueberry, coupled with the subtle astringency of rosehips, and a distinct (and delightful) sweet flavor like the pulp at the bottom of an unstirred container of blackberry yogurt.
Serviceberries were an important food of several North American Indian groups. The dried fruits, pounded to a pulp and formed into cakes, were eaten in trail-mix for long journeys.
Keep an eye on the tree now, easily seen this time of year with its white blossoms. Remember the location. If you can get to the fruits before the birds, you will be well rewarded.
Steven Foster is a world renowned botanical photographer. He has published many books, including 2 for National Geographic
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