An important staple food of the North American Indians, the Saskatoon took its common designation from the Cree name for the fruit: mis-sask-qua-too-mina. The nutritious Saskatoon was among the few fruits available in quantity to early North Americans. Many tribes held feasts and ceremonies to celebrate the commencement of the Saskatoon harvest.
Steamed and mashed, formed into cakes, and then dried, Saskatoons would keep through long winters to provide much-needed nourishment. Dried Saskatoon cakes could be reconstituted by boiling or chipped off as needed to add to soups and stews.
The “power bar” of its day, pemmican was a mixture of Saskatoons, dried meat and a healthy dose of melted fat, molded into cakes. A winter staple of the plains Indians, pemmican kept for months stored in a cool, dry place.
Quick to spot a good thing, Lewis and Clark availed themselves of the abundant Saskatoon during their expeditions. The Saskatoon was often the only fruit available to early settlers, and in the 1930s it was an important food source for victims of drought and the Depression.