Blueberries, strawberries and blackberries, but what about berries from a beloved tree? Allow us to introduce you to serviceberries, a local edible berry (probably) found right along your street!
A precocious tree, the serviceberry (Amelanchier arborea) is one of the first trees to bloom in the spring. These native trees aren’t just a pretty face: they’re surprisingly hardy and can stand up to shock and mediocre soil quality, and usually don’t grow past 25 feet in height – perfect for compact yards. Its creamy white or pale pink star-shaped flowers bloom in loose clusters toward the tips of the branches soon after the ground has thawed in March and April. In some regions, the flowers are gathered for religious services, thus giving this tree its common name.
The ovate leaves have small, sharply pointed teeth and fine, soft hairs on the surface when young. Serviceberries are native to woodlands in the United States from the Great Plains eastward to the coast and north into Canada. George Washington even enjoyed the serviceberry and planted several specimens at his Mount Vernon estate.
And while all that info is cool, let’s get to the good stuff – their berries! There’s a reason we (and even WAMU) can’t get enough of these local, edible berries: they’re delicious. Songbirds and mammals, including black bears and humans, eat the serviceberry’s fruit, which are small and round and red, purple and black in color.
Thankfully there are a number of serviceberry trees around the Casey Trees HQ in Brookland and since we like to incorporate trees into everything we do – including meals – we thought it would be fun to have each member of the Communications and Development team try their hand at a serviceberry recipe; from serviceberry cocktails to muffins to kombucha and even jam we can’t think of a better way to usher in summer.
So keep your eyes out for the serviceberries’ beautiful blooms this spring and when the berries begin to show, join us in the kitchen!