Chokecherries are in various stages of blooming around my yard.
Edible and Medicinal Plants of the Rockies by Linda Kershaw says that chokecherries "were among the most important berries for many tribes They were collected after the first frost (which makes them sweeter) and were dried or cooked, often as an addition to pemmican or stews. Large quantities were collected, pulverized with rocks, formed into patties about 6" in diameter and 3/4" thick and dried for winter use. Today chokecherries are used to make jelly, syrup, sauce, and wine. The raw cherries are sour and astringent, so they cause a puckering or choking sensation when they are eaten - hence the name 'chokecherry.' After they have been cooked or dried, however, they are much sweeter and lose their astringency."
Chokecherries were also used by Native American tribes as medicine. They used it "to improve appetite and relieve diarrhea and bloody discharge of the bowels." They used the inner bark to make into a tea that was used for "treating diarrhea, heart and lung problems, stimulating sweating, reducing fevers and expelling worms. It was also added to drops, syrups and medicines for soothing coughs."
In late summer, I try to pick the dark red chokecherries before the bears get them!
Chokecherry Pancake Syrup
1. Gather chokecherries, remove all stems, and wash.
2. Measure the amount of berries. Put berries in a saucepan, adding half as much water as you have berries. (Example 3 cups water to 6 cups berries.) Simmer for 15 minutes.
3. Crush fruit with potato masher as it softens. Drain through a moistened jelly bag.
4. Measure the amount of juice. Use equal amount of sugar as juice. Bring juice and sugar to a rolling boil for about 15 minutes.
5. Put in sterilized jars and seal with lids. Process in water bath for 10 minutes. (You may need to adjust this time if you live at high altitude.)
You might also enjoy reading my previous blog post here.