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Buffaloberries (aka Bull Berries)

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TasunkaWitko View Drop Down
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    Posted: 01 September 2014 at 14:57
Buffaloberries (aka Bull Berries)

This post is an introduction to another unique treasure of the northern plains that can be found at the same time as chokecherries in late summer: the buffaloberry (also known as the bull berry). 

Photo Credit: http://www.nrdtrees.org/images/large/slv_buffaloberry_full.jpg

As with chokecherries, these slightly-astringent berries are absolutely delicious as syrup, jam or jelly. I am sure that they would make a wonderful wine or mead, as well.

Wikipedia describes them quite well:

Quote Shepherdia argentea, commonly called silver buffaloberry, bull berry, or thorny buffaloberry, is a species of Shepherdia.

It is native to central and western North America, from southern Canada (Alberta, Saskatchewan, Manitoba) southwards in the United States to northern California, Arizona, and New Mexico.


Shepherdia argentea is a deciduous shrub growing from 2–6 metres (6.6–19.7 ft) tall. The leaves are arranged in opposite pairs (rarely alternately arranged), 2–6 cm long, oval with a rounded apex, green with a covering of fine silvery, silky hairs, more thickly silvery below than above.

The flowers are pale yellow, with four sepals and no petals.


The fruit is a bright red fleshy drupe 5 mm in diameter; it is edible but with a rather bitter taste. Two cultivars, 'Xanthocarpa' and 'Goldeneye', form yellow fruit.

The berry is one of the mainstays of the diet of the Sharp-tailed Grouse, the provincial bird of Saskatchewan. The foliage provides important forage for Mule deer and White-tailed deer. The shrub's thorny branches and thicket forming habit provide a shelter for many small animal species and an ideal nesting site for songbirds. Over the extent of its range, the buffaloberry is an important species in a variety of ecological communities. For example, in the shrub-grassland communities of North Dakota it is found growing with many native grasses, while in riparian woodlands of Montana and Western North Dakota it can be found in plant communities dominated by Green Ash....

Buffaloberries are edible by humans. They are quite sour, and afterwards leave the mouth a little dry. A touch of frost will sweeten the berries. The berries can be made into jelly, jam, or syrup, or prepared like cranberry sauce from the forefrost berries.... Sheperdia argentea has been used historically as a food, medicine, and dye. Its various uses include the treatment of stomach troubles.... In the Great Basin, the berries were eaten raw and dried for winter use, but more often cooked into a flavoring sauce for bison meat. The buffaloberry has been a staple food to some American Indians, who ate the berries in puddings, jellies, and in raw or dried form....

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Shepherdia_argentea

Buffaloberries grow everywhere here in central/eastern Montana, but my first memory of them is in North Dakota. When we would go visit my grandparents in the western-North-Dakota town of Killdeer, I would always walk a ways from their house to a field where a strawberry-coloured roan lived. In that same field were some buffaloberry bushes, and I would snack on them as I petted and fed the horse, telling him (or maybe her?) about the things that had been going on in my life since the last time I visited. I also remember bringing home jars of buffaloberry jelly that my grandmother made, labeled in her own handwriting. The jars were cut in a diamind pattern and the jelly was just about the best thing I'd ever had - even better because my grandma made it....

Late summer is a great time to pick buffaloberries, but waiting until early autumn can pay off; my dad always says that they are even bettwr after the first frost, because they are naturally a little sweeter. Buffaloberries can be a little tricky to pick due to the thorny branches that they grow on, but they are worth the effort, due to their unique, sweet-tart taste. My dad recalls that when he was a child, his parents would go out in the countryside to gather buffaloberries; they would lay blankets about the base of a bush and beat the bush with sticks to knock the berries down. 

Buffaloberry syrup is made the same way that chokecherry syrup is: 

http://foodsoftheworld.activeboards.net/chokecherry-syrup_topic4193.html

Like chokecherries, buffaloberries do not have much - if any - pectin, so it must be added in order to make jelly; I am guessing that apples or crabapples could also be used for making a combination jelly.

If we're able to get some buffaloberries, I'll report on what I make with them.
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Margi Cintrano View Drop Down
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Margi Cintrano Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 02 September 2014 at 13:08
Extraordinaire. Truly exemplary. Thank you for your post.
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (2) Thanks(2)   Quote Percebes Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 23 December 2014 at 14:24
I taught cooking on an Native Indian Reservation in Southern Alberta for 3 years.
These were everywhere and I made jelly and sauces. The flavor is extremely unique and once you try it, you will crave it.

In Blackfoot language it is known phoenetically as
"Mitt-Sue-Nit-See
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote AK1 Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 23 December 2014 at 18:51
Anyone have seeds they'd like to share?
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote TasunkaWitko Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 23 December 2014 at 20:53
Darko - I'd be happy to.

Since buffaloberries grow wild in Canada too, I assume it won't be a "problem;" if it is a problem for some reason, I have a friend in Alberta who could get some to you.

The main thing is that I might forget, so please do not be shy about reminding me! Embarrassed


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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote TasunkaWitko Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 23 December 2014 at 20:57
Originally posted by Percebes Percebes wrote:

I taught cooking on an Native Indian Reservation in Southern Alberta for 3 years.
These were everywhere and I made jelly and sauces. The flavor is extremely unique and once you try it, you will crave it.

In Blackfoot language it is known phoenetically as
"Mitt-Sue-Nit-See

I love them too, Murray - thanks for sharing the Blackfoot name for these!
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote TasunkaWitko Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 12 January 2016 at 18:57
On 9 September 2015, my youngest son and I went out to pick some buffaloberries. They were rather difficult to pick due to the thorns (and also the trillions of mosquitoes that were there), but we did manage to get enough of them to finally try making syrup from them. 

I ended up with 4 half-pints of syrup, and it turned out great! The syrup itself is a pale pink with hints of yellow or orange - maybe close to a salmon colour - and the nice balance of sweet with a little tart was definitely unique, in a good way.

I'll seriously be looking forward to enjoying this over the winter and into next year.
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Vk3949 Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 29 June 2020 at 19:07
In Connecticut Buffaloberry is common in a wilderness, but the good harvest is usually ones in 6-7 years. I grow in my garden guomi berry, which I believe is not related to buffaloberry, but looks and tests very similar. The jam may be made easy from both berries by short boiling of the berries with small amount of water, then mash it and put through screen ( to separate seeds). The juice is added the sugar and pectin and is simmering for 20 min.
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote HistoricFoodie Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 01 July 2020 at 00:41
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