There is a serene and settled majesty to woodland scenery that enters into the soul and delights and elevates it, and fills it with noble inclinations. – Washington Irving
|Photo: pellaea, Flickr ccl
|Bunchbery grows everywhere in our forests.
Photo: Dave Kleinschmidt, Flickr ccl
The most common name for it is Bunchberry, but it also goes by some other colourful names such as pigeonberry, squirrelberry and crackerberry. I’ve read of two reasons for the last name, the first being because of the snapping sound made when the fruit is popped, the other that it comes from an old word for crow (crake). As you can tell, with all the alternate names it is evidently a favorite of wildlife.
In New England bunchberries (aka puddingberries) were added to other fruits in puddings for additional color and also for their high pectin level to help the puddings set up without additional thickening agents. For this same reason they were also added to jams and jellies.
A prolific northern woodland ground cover, it spreads by underground runners and seeds and will do very well if you meet its growing conditions. Bunchberry requires acidic, moist soil and lots of shade with a little morning or afternoon sunlight as they are extremely heat sensitive.
|Photo: Lynette S., Flickr ccl
Try pine needles around your rhododendrons for the same purpose. Don’t forget to add wood chips and pine needles every few years to your bunchberries to keep the soil in proper condition.
Bunchberry’s white flowers turn into clusters of pea-sized red fruits. In actuality what you see as a single flower is made up of many tiny flowers surrounded by four larger white bracts. This is how the “single flower” fruits into several berries. Each berry has a hard large seed. Botanically, the fruits are actually drupes, which is fruit with a “stone” such as apricots, peaches, etc.
|Photo: Our Enchanted Garden, Flickr ccl
Bunchberry recipes are few and far between, most likely lost in the mist of time and due to the availability of Certo®. But I did find one that sounds very interesting. It uses the pectin in the bunchberries for thickener.
Fruit Sauce with Lemon Ricotta Stuffed Crêpes
I’ve assembled three recipes here that would make a delicious dessert. Fruit syrup, crepes and lemon ricotta filling. If you’ve never made crêpes, they’re easier than pancakes, and definitely a skill you should learn. Crêpes can be used for both sweet and savoury dishes. Just make the crêpes, stuff with the filling (either by rolling or folding into triangles), and drizzle with the syrup. Top with fresh raspberries if desired.
Bunchberry Raspberry Fruit Sauce
2 cups bunchberries
2 cups raspberries
4 tablespoons water
1/4 cup honey
Place the fruit in small saucepan with the water and honey. Bring to a boil and cook until soft, about 10 minutes. Press the cooked fruit through colander or food mill. Use on pancakes or crepes and store remainder in a jar in the refrigerator.
1 cup all-purpose flour
2 large eggs
1/2 cup milk
1/2 cup water
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons butter, melted
In a large mixing bowl, whisk together the flour and the eggs. Gradually add in the milk and water, stirring to combine. Add the salt and butter; beat until smooth.
Heat a lightly oiled griddle, frying, or crepe pan over medium high heat. Pour 1/4 cup of the batter in the hot pan. Tilt the pan with a circular motion so that the batter coats the surface evenly.
Cook the crêpe for about 2 minutes, until the bottom is light brown. Loosen with a spatula, turn and cook the other side. Can be served warm (best) or chilled until ready to use. If chilling, separate with saran wrap or they may stick together.
Basic Lemon Ricotta
454g ricotta cheese
2 eggs, beaten
1 lemon, juice & zest
1/4-1/2 cup icing sugar
Use the sugar to your individual taste. Beat together all ingredients and chill until ready to use.
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