a peek inside the fishbowl

07 Jul, 2007

The Secret

Posted by andrea tomkins in: Easy ways to make kids happy|Ottawa

saskatoon berry trees

My children are obsessed with these trees. When they were small they used to race underneath them, or skip underneath their fairytale canopy like a Goldilocks or Red Riding Hood would. Now that they’re bigger they climb into the arms of their branches. Last summer – yes, after all this time – we learned they have edible berries. Saskatoon berries, I think. I’m not entirely sure. (Scratch that, the wiki entry describes it pretty well. It’s also called a serviceberry!)

I occasionally notice the rare person picking them into small containers, but we’re definitely one of the very few people who Know We Can Eat These.

It’s amazing. We’re talking about a substantial grouping of trees, right next to a high-traffic kind of place. Everyone should be picking them. But they’re not. In fact, I get weird looks for letting the girls do it. Because of this I’ve been limiting their access.

saskatoon berry treesWouldn’t it be wonderful if more trees and shrubs planted by the city bore edible fruit? Can you imagine raspberry bushes encircling public parks, apple trees dotting the Byron pathway, grapes wrapping themselves up chain link fences?

Ottawa should be about more than just tulips in the Spring. What do you think?

The Saskatoon berries are past their peak now. Besides, the starlings have gotten the best of them anyway.

“I wish I could pick the berry at the very top of the tree,” said Sarah.
“Why is that?”
“Because N told me the one at the top is always the sweetest!”

You know what, I bet it is. But then again, everything tastes sweet when you’re six and you’ve picked it yourself.

6 Responses to "The Secret"

1 | liss76

July 7th, 2007 at 8:23 am


That’s what we did with our yard. It was devoid of anything but peonies, orange daylilies, rhubarb and a red maple when we moved in. I’ve spent the last six years working on creating what I lovingly refer to as the “Urban Jungle”. Part of that has been ensuring that there are lots of things for the kids to graze on, pick, and use in their imaginings. We have raspberries, gooseberries, grapes, red currants, black currants, elderberry, rhubarb, and lots of different herbs worked into the flower gardens and between the more conventional shrubberies. My oldest was recently amazed when I pointed out that the tight buds of the plain old orange daylilies can be sliced up and eaten in salads!

With the exception of the rhubarb (mostly because there’s no way the kids could eat it all on their own), the berries are only there for the kids and their friends to pick and eat when playing in the yard. I grew up in a very rural area and have fond memories of the “eat as I play” sort of lifestyle–eating wild blueberries and strawberries, blackberries, mint, etc while running around the fields and woods as a small child. I am really hoping I am creating a small touch of that same feeling for my kids, despite our living in the city.

While I would love to see the city do something like this on a larger scale, I’m a bit hesitant–mostly because of chemical use on city property. If they were to set aside their own “urban jungle”, then it would have to be a “no spray” zone and compost-only fertilizing.

2 | Andrea - JustOneMoreBook! Kidlit Podcast

July 7th, 2007 at 9:35 am


Over the past few years, I’ve been thrilled to notice that Ottawa is slowly letting its hair down. Long grass grows and sways at the Carleton University locks of the Rideau Canal and milk weed plants are being welcomed back in the least expected locations all over the city — bringing the monarch butterflies with them.

If we could just get a lawn-care ban with teeth in place this wonderful wildness would just explode.

3 | Tiana

July 7th, 2007 at 10:35 am


There are a bunch of raspberry bushes growing along the bike path between Billings Bridge and Hogs Back. I used to grab a bunch as I rode by in the summers but I haven’t been in that area in a long time.

4 | mrsgryphon

July 7th, 2007 at 11:36 am


mmmmm, Saskatoon berries! Out her in the West, we have saskatoon berry jam and wine and pies and pastries… they have to be one of my favourite berries!

5 | melissa

July 8th, 2007 at 7:27 am


We have serviceberry trees all over the place here, in fact there’s one growing right in our garden at our front door. They get used as one of the standard boulevard planting trees, but because they’re often in the 10 year old range, they don’t get taken care of/pruned and in fact are really ugly in tree form – all jagged corners and wierd angles – those ones the girls are running under seem like really mature clump form ones and are gorgeous!

On a side note, I was in Saskatoon for a conference a few weeks ago and we had saskatoon berry perogies at this phenomenally good little Ukranian restaurant on the edge of town – delicious!

6 | Leila

December 27th, 2008 at 8:45 am


Where exactly is this? Those trees are seriously beautiful. Reminds me of something from the Anne of Green Gables books.

Btw … love your blog!! I live in Ottawa too with my husband and three little girls. Any tips and tricks about outing, recipes etc is always welcomed. I will be reading your blog regularly from now on!!!

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My name is Andrea and I live in the Westboro area of Ottawa with my husband Mark and our dog Piper who is kind of a big deal on Instagram. We also have two human offspring: Emma (24) and Sarah (22). During the day I work as a writer at the Royal Ottawa Mental Health Centre. I am a longtime Ottawa blogger and I've occupied this little corner of the WWW since 1999. The Fishbowl is my whiteboard, water cooler, and journal, all rolled into one. I'm passionate about healthy living, arts and culture, travel, great gear, good food, and sharing the best of Ottawa. I also love vegetables, photography, gadgets, and great design.

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