Prairie Fruits

Not everyone knows about Saskatoons and rhubarb, but chances are, if you’re from the Prairies, you will know and love them both!

Here’s an excerpt from the book plus a recipe for a mouth-watering rhubarb crisp that can be made with rhubarb, berries, apples or a mix of Prairie fruits:

“In times past, nearly every prairie yard had a raspberry patch and an abundance of rhubarb.  Saskatoon berries were plentiful in every ravine and river valley, but most tree fruits weren’t hardy enough to withstand the winters.  Breeding programs such as the one at the University of Saskatchewan have increased the variety of cold-hardy fruit trees and shrubs available for prairie gardeners and commercial growers. U-Pick operations in every province offer the opportunities for a family outing during the harvest season.

Prairie gardners can grow a variety of hardy dwarf sour cherries and apples.  Among the apple varieties, some, such as Wealthy, were known to pioneers who prized them for both eating and cooking.  Others, like the aptly named Prairie Sun and Prairie Sensation have been developed in recent years.

Strawberries and raspberries grow well on the prairies.  In addition, many Saskatoon varieties are available for backyard gardeners.  A new crop is the Haskap or honeyberry, which tastes something like a blueberry and grows on a shrub suitable in size for an urban backyard (Note that two plants are required for pollination).  Rhubarb (which is actually a vegetable) is still a favourite with with many people, being among the first crops ready for harvest in early summer and delicious baked in pies, breads and crisps.

Researchers at the University of Alberta have studied the nutritional characteristics of Saskatoon berries.  The dark blue-red colour of Saskatoons is due to high amounts of anti-oxidant compounds in the skin and flesh.  According to the United States Department of Agriculture, Saskatoon berries have the most anti-oxidant activity in a list of 40 fruits and vegetables.  This activity is found in flavenoid compounds that give the Saskatoons their deep purple colour.  The types and amounts of flavinoids present have been characterized by researchers at the University of Alberta.  Saskatoons are also a good source of fibre and iron.”

Coconutty Rhubarb Crisp

Serves 8 – Serving Size: Approximately 1 cup (250 mL)

Ingredients:

6 cups (1.5 L)  sliced rhubarb

1/2 cup (125 mL) orange or apple juice

1/2 cup (125 mL) granulated sugar

1 Tbsp (15 mL) non-hydrogenated margarine or butter

1/4 cup (60mL) brown sugar

1 tsp (5 mL) cinnamon

1/4 cup (60 mL) whole-wheat flour

1/2 cup (125 mL) oatmeal

2 Tbsp ( 30 mL) non-hydrogenated margarine or butter

1/4 cup (60 mL) unsweetened coconut

1/4 cup (60 mL) coarsely chopped pecans

 

Directions:

1.  Preheat oven to 350oF (180oC).

2.  Combine rhubarb, juice and granulated sugar in a glass cooking dish.  Dot with 1 Tbsp (15mL) margarine.

3.  Combine brown sugar, cinnamon, flour and oatmeal. Blend in 2 Tbsp (30 mL) margarine with fork or a pastry blender until crumbly.  Mix in coconut and nuts.  Spoon over rhubarb.

4.  Bake for 40 minutes or until fruit juice bubbles through topping.