Shrubs - Chokecherry
Shrub or small tree 5 to 20 feet tall with smooth bark and dark green ovate leaves. Sweet smelling blossoms yield clusters of dark red fruits in late June/early July. Fruits were harvested by Plains Indians for use in preparing pemmican, a winter staple food which combined fruit, meat (usually bison, elk, or deer) and fat. Juice from the crushed fruits was given to a husband or favorite child as a treat, and sticks were used to season meat during roasting. Attesting to the significance of chokecherries as a food source, Dakota refer to the full moon of July as “black cherry moon.” Settlers prepared sweet treats (preserves, syrups) made from chokecherries combined with a lot of sugar. Chokecherries may also be eaten raw, though the pits contain hydrocyanic acid.
Last updated: January 23, 2018