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serviceberries

Many homeowners grow serviceberry plants unaware that the berries can be eaten. (Birds know that, though.)

If you already grow blueberries, strawberries and raspberries and are looking for something different, horticulturists at Iowa State University Extension and Outreach have some suggestions.

Serviceberries

Many people already have serviceberries as landscape plants because of their spring flowers and fall foliage. Those same people don't realize, though, that they could eat the berries.

Serviceberries are members of the genus Amelanchier. Other common names for plants in the genus Amelanchier include juneberry, saskatoon, shadbush, sarvisberry and sugar plum.

Serviceberries are dual-purpose plants. They are planted as ornamentals for their masses of showy, white flowers in early spring and their colorful fall foliage.

They also are grown for their edible fruit. The blueberry-like fruit may be eaten fresh, baked in pies or other desserts, canned, or made into wine, jams or preserves.

While the fruit on all Amelanchier species is edible, cultivars of Amelanchier alnifolia are the most productive and produce the best quality fruit. Available cultivars include ‘Smokey,’ ‘Northline,’ ‘Thiessen,’ ‘Regent’ and ‘Pembina.’

Serviceberries can be grown successfully in partial shade to full sun. However, plant in full sun for maximum fruit production.

Cornelian cherries

The cornelian cherry (Cornus mas) is actually a species of dogwood. It is also referred to as cornelian cherry dogwood.

The cornelian cherry dogwood is an adaptable, durable and relatively pest-free small tree. Plants commonly grow 20 to 25 feet high and 15 to 20 feet wide.

The cornelian cherry dogwood produces small, yellow flowers in round, three-fourths-of-an-inch-wide clusters in early spring. After flowering, oblong one-half- to 1-inch-long berry-like fruit develops.

The fruit turns cherry red in late summer and is edible. The fruit is similar in taste to tart cherries and can be used for jams, jellies, pies, syrups and wine. The fruit is high in vitamin C.

Cornelian cherry dogwoods are most commonly planted as ornamentals in home landscapes. However, several cultivars (‘Elegant,’ ‘Red Star,’ ‘Pioneer’ and others) are grown for their fruit. The cornelian cherry dogwood is hardy in USDA Hardiness Zones 4 to 8.

Jostaberries

Jostaberries are a cross between black currants and gooseberries. Plants are thornless, vigorous and may grow to a height of 6 to 8 feet. Jostaberry fruit is similar in size to gooseberries and black in color.

The fruit can be used in jams, jellies and pies. Plants possess excellent cold hardiness and can be successfully grown in USDA Hardiness Zones 3 through 8.

Honeyberries

Honeyberry (Lonicera caerulea) is a species of honeysuckle native to cold regions of Europe, Asia and North America. Other common names include blue honeysuckle and haskap.

Honeyberry plants grow 4 to 6 feet high. Plants produce small, yellowish-white, funnel-shaped flowers in early spring. After flowering, elongated fruit develops that ripens and turns dark blue in late spring. The flavor of the fruit is similar to a blueberry with black currant or raspberry overtones.

Honeyberries can be used for jams, juice, syrups and wine. They also make great ice cream and smoothies. The fruit is high in antioxidants (as high or higher than blueberries).

Numerous Russian/Eastern European cultivars are available; including Berry Blue, Blue Bird, Blue Moon, and Blue Velvet.

In recent years, the University of Saskatchewan has introduced several new cultivars. The fruit of the Canadian introductions is purportedly larger and better-tasting than the Russian/Eastern European cultivars.

University of Saskatchewan cultivars include ‘Borealis,’ ‘Tundra,’ and ‘Indigo Gem.’ Honeyberries have few pest problems and are easy to grow. Plant at least two cultivars to insure good pollination and fruit set. Honeyberries can be successfully grown in partial shade to full sun. They are hardy in USDA Hardiness Zones 2 to 6.

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