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Mother Nature's Vitamins - Fruit - Naturally!Setting sun on DNA Gardens Saskatoon patch

Nutrition of Fruit

Saskatoons - a new "Super Fruit"
Alberta Grown saskatoons & black currants higher levels of antioxidants than blueberries

Compounds in black currants may help protect against Alzheimer's disease
What is a Nutraceutical?
Nutraceutical Properties of Cherries

Anthocyanin (flavonoids) briefly explained

Saskatoon Nutrients/medicinal properties

Black Currant Nutrients/medicinal properties

Chokecherry/history/medicinal properties



Saskatoons - a new Super Fruit.
Saskatoon berries can be considered as one-kind of ‘Superfruit’. The word ‘Superfruit’ refers to fruit which contains high sources of antioxidants. From a nutraceutical perspective, antioxidant rich fruits have anti-cancer, anti-aging, and anti-heart problem effects on human body. The benefits of antioxidant have contributed against cardiovascular and inflammatory diseases, and act as a protective guard to our immune systems.

The ORAC (oxygen radical absorbance capacity) value is one of the methods used to measure the total antioxidant activity in fruit. In the tables below the ORAC values show saskatoon berries are naturally high in antioxidants and rank highest in both fresh fruit and in fruit pulp relative to other common fruits.

Whole Fresh Fruit - ORAC

Fruit Pulp - ORAC

Research evidence shows that antioxidants found in fruits and vegetables may help reduce the risk of cancers.1,2 Studies also showed that there are potential anticarcinogenic activity of anthocyanins in fruits and fruit products, and anthocyanins may possess multifaceted actions including antioxidation and anticarinigenesis, and may have inhibitory effects on colon carcinogenesis.3

Anthocyanins Show Potent Anti-Obesity Potential.....

Anthocyanins, antioxidant pigments from fruit and vegetables, have a "significant potency" against fat cells and could be used for the prevention of weight gain, suggests a new study from Japan.4

Saskatoon berries are exclusively only grown in Canada, with the largest supply coming from the prairie provinces of Saskatchewan, Alberta, and Manitoba.

Read more information on the nutraceutical and nutritional benefits of this unique fruit, Nutrition & Health.

Ozga, J. A., Saeed, A. and Reinecke, D. M. (2006). Anthocyanins and nutrient components of saskatoon fruits (Amelanchier alnifolia Nutt.). Can. J. Plant Sci. 86: 193-197.
U. Nothlings, S.P. Murphy, L.R. Wilkens, B.E. Henderson and L.N. Kolonel. Flavonols and Pancreatic Cancer Risk-The Multiethnic Cohort Study. American Journal of Epidemiology; V 166,8: 924-931. C. Hu, B.H.L. Kwok, D.D Kitts. (2005). Saskatoon berries (Amelanchier alnifolia Nutt.) scavenge free radicals and inhibit intracellular oxidation. Food Research international 38: 1079-1085. 4Source: Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry Volume 56, Number 3, Pages 642-646.

Nutraceutical Properties of Cherries

'Listen to Rick Sawatsky research technician U. of  S. and see what all the excitement is about!'

Quote " Researchers in Michigan have found that tart cherries, one of the parental species of dwarf cherries, contain compounds with antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties.  Cherries have been linked to beneficial health effects in that cherry growers, who eat six times the amount of cherries as the average American, have a lower incidence of cancer and heart conditions.  The most active antioxidant compounds in the cherry fruit are superior to vitamins E and C and some synthetic antioxidants.  The same researchers have speculated that the natural antioxidants in cherry fruit could be extracted for use in food processing.  It is interesting to note that these superior antioxidants in tart cherries are anthocyanins that are associated with the bright red color.  Our dwarf cherries have a more intense red color than Montmerency, the most commonly grown tart cherry in Michigan.  Our dwarf cherry fruit has not been tested for antioxidant concentration, but it is reasonable to expect high levels.

These scientists also found that compounds from tart cherry fruit have anti-inflammatory properties which supports anecdotal information that tart cherries may relieve the pain of gout and arthritis.  A family member reports relief from gout after eating our dwarf cherry fruit.

A food scientist in Michigan reports that adding tart cherry fruit to ground meat resulted in 50% greater reduction in the formation of mutagenic compounds during cooking.  This was compared to ground meat to which other antioxidant compounds had been added.  Dr. Alden Booren, professor of Food Science and Human Nutrition at Michigan State University, says,  "We found that tart cherries reduced the formation of mutagenic compounds by 90% - a 50% greater reduction than with the other compounds.  They are the most significant source that we have found for preventing mutagen formation in ground beef.  Our trained taste testers found the cherry-beef mixtures to be very desirable and had equal to or better flavor than those from lean ground beef.  We also found that reheated ground beef with cherries was essentially devoid of oxidized or rancid flavors."  He and other scientists believe that the antioxidant properties of tart cherries are responsible for these effects.  For complete information, see the Cherry Marketing Institute" end of quote.

So what is a Nutraceutical you ask?  A nutraceutical is a food or food component considered to provide medical or health benefits.  These foods assist in the prevention or treatment of disease.  This is a new area of study but scientists are now just proving that mom was right.  She always said to eat your fruits and vegetables.  Live long and healthy  -  Eat your berries!

Anthocyanin (flavonoids) briefly explained

Excerpt from: Willy Kalt,  Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada
Atlantic Food and Horticulture Research Centre
"An important group of health-promoting phytochemicals are the flavonoids. These compounds are particularly abundant in fruits, but also occur in vegetables. One notable group of flavonoids are the anthocyanins. The anthocyanins are pigments - they impart the red, blue, purple color to the peel of fruits such as Saskatoon berries, blueberries, strawberries, cranberries, etc. A good indicator of anthocyanin content of fruit, is the color intensity of its juice. For example, a blueberry juice would be much more deeply colored than say a strawberry juice, due to its higher anthocyanin content.

One important property of the flavonoids is that they are antioxidants. This means that antioxidant compounds like flavonoids, may provide some protection to human against the deleterious effect of oxidative stress. Oxidative stress has been strongly implicated in the development of cardiovascular disease, many types and cancers, and certain neurodegenerative diseases."

Flavonoids have other health benefits.  For example flavonoids have a “blood-thinning” effect; they inhibit the aggregation of blood platelets which otherwise contributes to the formation of blood clots, and the deposition of atherosclerotic deposits in blood vessels.  As antioxidants, flavonoids inhibit the oxidation of LDL (low density lipoprotein), and together these effects contribute to the general protective properties of these compounds. 

The “French Paradox”, which is the unexpectedly low incidence of cardiovascular disease in high risk groups (smokers with high fat diets) has been explained by the high consumption of flavonoid-rich red wines in these populations.  

Saskatoon Nutrients  The Journal of Food Science – Volume 47 1982  Dr. G. Mazza

Saskatoons appear to be an excellent source of manganese, magnesium, iron, calcium, potassium, copper and carotene.  A 100 gm serving of fresh saskatoons will supply 88 mg. of calcium or 11 % of the Recommended Dietary Allowance.  Saskatoons can be considered a better source of calcium than red meats, vegetables and cereals. 

Saskatoons supply 33.8 % of the Recommended Dietary Allowance of manganese and 7% of the Recommended Dietary Allowance of copper.

Recent research indicates saskatoons have very high components of phenolics, flavonols and anthocyanins.

Saskatoons are high in sugar, rich in Vitamin C, and also contain more than three times as much iron and copper in the same weight as raisins.

Excerpts taken from Linda Kershaw, Botanist, Lone Pine Publishing
Historically, the native people used saskatoons for many things.  The berries treated stomachache, liver trouble, sore eyes and the pains and bleeding of childbirth.  Dysentery, painful menstruation and bleeding during pregnancy was treated with the inner bark or roots.  The settlers adopted the saskatoon as a medicine too.  Diarrhea was treated with crushed green berries and ripe berry juice was said to act as a mild laxative and to relieve upset stomach.  The inner bark was made into a brew for eye wash which treated blurred vision from sun, dust or snow blindness.  If a pregnant woman was injured,  saskatoon root tea was immediately administered. 

Black Currants  Excerpts from Pal Tamas, leading researcher and plant breeder, Sweden
“Black currants can rightfully be called the “King of the Berries” due to the intrinsic biological and nutrition-physiological values of its fruits…it contains several-fold higher concentrations of potassium, iron, vitamin C. organic acids and biologically active plant phenolic compounds than other fruits.  In this respect, the black currants constitute a distinct group among the fruits…These compounds exert a synergistic effect in the human organism.

The different plant phenolic compounds, the so-called bioflavonoids, display a large diversity of biological functions in the human organism.  The most important of these biological activities is the so-called vitamin P activity that has a vasodilatory effect and also affects the flexibility of the capillaries.  Research has established the preventive and therapeutic effects of the biologically active compounds of black currants.  Furthermore, they were also shown to stimulate the digestive processes.  It was determined that the black currant has anti-inflamatory, anti-oxidative and weak anti-bacterial effect as  well as protective effects on harmful radiation.

The biological effects of some of the biologically active compounds of black currants surpass known chemical compounds with similar effects.  As a consequence, medicines and raw materials for medicines based on black currant extracts have been put on the market.  Clinical studies performed in Bulgaria, under the supervision of Tasev (1968), have shown that it is possible to use black currants as a major therapeutic agent for the treatment of distinct diseases, instead of the dosage of conventional drugs.”

Currant seed contains high levels of GLA, gamma linolenic acid.  The deep rich color of black currant is a strong antioxidant.

Quotes on Black Currant from Dr. Richard St. Pierre  Native Fruit Specialist University of Saskatchewan
“Historically, black currant fruit, roots and leaves have had many medicinal uses.  Black currant fruit are very rich in vitamin C.  Black currant juice, tea and extracts have been used to treat sore throats (quinsy).  Consequently, the name “squinancy berry” was adopted in Great Britain.

The leaves and buds of European black currants have been used as an anti-inflammatory drug.  Various North American native tribes used the roots of the native black currant to treat many conditions including intestinal worms, kidney problems and uterine disorders.  The fruit of one species was used a mild laxative, while early settlers used root infusions to treat dysentery in cattle and fevers in people.

Oils extracted from leaf and flower buds of black currants have been used in cosmetic creams, lotions and perfumes.  Black currant seed is considered to be a potential source of omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids for the treatment of asthma, premenstrual syndrome, skin conditions, and arthritis.

Black currant has exceptional nutritional value.  Seeds are rich in both omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids.  Fresh fruit have an abundance of vitamins A, B and C and contain between 6 and 9% sugar.”

Black Currants are believed to prevent Alzheimer's.  Click this link to see an article about Black Currants and Alzheimers.

Chokecherry (Prunus virginiana) (Excerpts from St. Pierre, 1993, Research Scientist and Director Native Fruit Development Program, University of Saskatchewan)

Here is some history….

Chokecherry was one of the most important plants used by the Plains Cree and Blackfoot.  Just like saskatoons, dried chokecherries were ground with stones and used in soups, stews and pemmican .  The period during which the chokecherry was in fruit was referred to as “black-cherry-moon’.  The Shuswap Indians mixed the fruit with bear grease to make colorful paint for pictographs.  Canadian west coast natives ate chokecherry dried fruit with salmon or salmon eggs.  The bark was boiled along with other ingredients to produce a remedy for diarrhea.  A strong, black, astringent tea was made from boiled twigs and used to relieve fevers.  Dried roots were chewed and placed on wounds  to stop bleeding.  Teas were made from the bark or roots and used to treat coughing, malaria, stomachaches, tuberculosis and intestinal worms.  Such teas were also used as sedatives and appetite stimulants.  The fruit were used to treat canker sores, ulcers and abscesses.

Wood of the chokecherry was used for tipi construction, bows and arrows, skewers, diggings sticks, pipe stems and fire tongs.  Navajo Indians thought of the chokecherry as a sacred plant and used its wood to make prayer sticks. 

The chokecherry was also utilized by European settlers in North America.  Parts of the chokecherry were the basis of popular home medications.  Teas made from the bark have long been used as a sedative, and to alleviate coughs.  Extracts of the berries and bark have been used as a flavoring agent for cough and cold preparations.  Wild cherry bark was an officially recognized pharmaceutical from 1800 – 1975.


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Top photo: DNA Gardens saskatoon orchard in bloom at sunset

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