Celebrating Unique Michigan Fruits
The great state of Michigan is home to a wide variety of wonderful fruits to find at the farmers market, local grocery store, or even to go pick yourself. Strawberries, blueberries, cherries, apples… you name the fruit and it’s likely grown in Michigan! This month, we’re celebrating some of Michigan’s lesser known fruits: saskatoons, pawpaws, and thimbleberries! These three delicious local fruits have a shorter growing season than some of the other crops grown in Michigan, and can be a bit more difficult to track down, but that makes them all the more special to find and enjoy. Read on to learn more!
Saskatoons, also known as serviceberries or juneberries, are native in Canada, the Western United States, and parts of Alaska, but they’ve also been found on Isle Royale and throughout parts of Michigan. Similar in shape and color to blueberries, saskatoons are actually more closely related to apples, and there are a wide variety of opinions about what they taste like – although most people agree that they are delicious! Saskatoons have a very short growing season here in Michigan, often just one to two weeks, which makes them difficult to track down and enjoy. In fact, there are less than 100 acres of saskatoons grown throughout the entire state! But these delicious fruits are well worth hunting down, even if that means finding them frozen at your local grocery store. Besides being perfect for pies, cobblers, tarts, crisps, and more, saskatoons are extremely healthy and are an excellent source of magnesium, manganese, calcium, iron, and potassium. Look for saskatoons in late June and early July at your farmers market or visit a local farm that grows them, like Saskatoon Michigan!
You may have heard of the town of Paw Paw, Michigan, named after the formerly prolific fruit that grew abundantly in the southwest part of our state. Now, pawpaws are harder to come by, but they’re still delicious and still worth seeking out! These unique fruits are large and mango-like, growing on short trees with large, tropical-looking leaves. Sometimes weighing up to a pound, when sliced open their yellow flesh tastes like a mix between a mango and a banana. In southwest Michigan, they are harvested in September and early October, so keep your eyes peeled for them at farmers markets near you, soon! Pawpaws are both farmed and foraged in the wild in Michigan, and they often grow in patches, so if you find one pawpaw tree, look for more nearby! Farms like Mycophile’s Garden sell pawpaws when they’re in season, and southwest Michigan farmers markets like the Kalamazoo Farmers Market typically offer them, too. So, what can you do with a pawpaw? They can be enjoyed raw, but are a great addition to smoothies or as a substitution for bananas in recipes like banana bread. In fact, they can be baked into a variety of baked goods for added extra sweetness and moisture. If you’re really craving that fresh, tropical pawpaw flavor, try adding pawpaws to salsa or salads! Learn more about pawpaws here.
In the Upper Peninsula, thimbleberries are highly celebrated and sought after. These bright red berries grow wild across the region and thrive on disturbances like wildfires and soil disruption, making them excellent foraging berries! Look for big, bright green leaves about the size of a spread hand, with berries like flatter raspberries. Prime thimbleberry season is in mid to late July through mid-August. Thimbleberries are delicate, so they’re great to eat right away as you’re picking, but many people like to collect them and quickly use them to make jam. That’s not the only thing that can be done with thimbleberries, though; Short’s Brewing Company has created a seasonal thimbleberry beer made with thimbleberries! These special berries are a real treat, so keep your eyes peeled for them this month across the Upper Peninsula!
Have you enjoyed any of Michigan’s rarer fruits this year? Thimbleberries are currently still in season, and pawpaws are coming soon, so there’s still plenty of time! Share your experiences with these fruits with us on social media or by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org
Elizabeth Pearce is TLD’s Operations Assistant. She is based in southeast Michigan.